CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 15: Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis speaks to supporters during a rally at Union Park September 15, 2012 in Chicago. An estimated 25,000 striking Chicago teachers and their supporters gathered in the park in a show of solidarity as negotiations on a labor contract continued. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Look out, Chicago Teachers Union. You had a big year in 2012, with a seven-day strike that won you a raise and more job security. But in the war on unions, you’re the next target.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics is reporting that the nation’s unionization rate fell from 11.8 percent to 11.3 percent last year, the lowest level since the 1930s, when workers won the right to organize in auto, steel and other major industries.
According to the Associated Press:
The nation’s labor unions suffered sharp declines in membership last year, led by losses among public sector workers in cash-strapped states, cities, counties and towns.
Total union membership fell by about 400,000 workers to 14.4 million. Teachers unions were among the hardest hit, with the ranks of public school teachers and educators falling sharply.
Unions also saw losses in the private sector, even as the economy expanded modestly. The private sector unionization rate fell from 6.9% to 6.6%.
Unions have steadily lost members since their peak in the 1950s, when about one of every three workers was in a union.
The story here is that private sector unionism has been reduced to its lowest possible level. Public sector unions are the only unions left to attack. Which is why conservatives are trying to rally workers who have been impoverished by the destruction of the labor movement against the few remaining unionized workers, arguing that they’re beneficiaries of a “special deal” not available to ordinary chumps forced to work without health insurance or pensions.
That was the argument Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker used when he stripped public sector unions of collective bargaining rights. It was also the argument of Tyrone Fahner, president of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club, which backed an amendment to the Illinois Constitution to require a three-fifths vote before any public body could increase pension benefits. Said Fahner.
The fairness is that the public, 95 percent of the public which are not members of a public employees' pension system, are paying for the largesse of all the rest. So they're the ones that need to be protected. The unions have had free shots for whatever they've wanted over the years, which is one of the reasons the state's in the debt crisis it's in.
The class war is just about over. And the upper class has just about won.