In his excellent article in the October issue (“The Business of America”), John Steele Gordon expounds on some of the reasons for the decline of the American labor movement. There are, however, many more causes of labor’s woes.
Newly powerful unions proved to be just as arrogant and predatory as their bosses had once been, and reaction and retaliation predictably began chipping away at the unions’ newfound power. Labor’s steadfast opposition to new technologies, individual initiative, and modern innovation, particularly among the craft unions, doomed the unions as surely as the dinosaurs.
Most significant of all is the part government played, albeit unwittingly, in the downfall of big labor. In its zeal to get government on its side in promoting its programs, labor conceded to government the enforcement of most of its bread-and-butter issues—child labor, working hours and overtime, health and safety, racial and sexual discrimination and harassment, workman’s compensation and retirement, minimum wages, and much more. Most of what once were the benefits of belonging to a union are now guaranteed—not by the union, but by the government—and the worker doesn’t have to pay dues or attend meetings.