I always thought Labor Day was an oddball holiday. It became a federal holiday in 1894 and is observed on the first Monday in September. Whereas holidays like Memorial Day and Independence Day recognized fallen veterans and the nation’s birth, I was never quite sure what Labor Day stood for other than perhaps another paid holiday for the labor unions. For most of us, it represents the end of summer and the start of a new school year. This has changed in recent times though as schools are now more inclined to start earlier, well before Labor Day.

As our Labor Unions have received considerable attention in the press lately, I decided to research their membership numbers on this occasion. To do so, I researched the annual “Union Members Summary” as produced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (Friday, January 21, 2011). In it, I discovered union membership is in decline; to quote from the paper:

“In 2010, the union membership rate, the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of a union, was 11.9 percent, down from 12.3 percent a year earlier. The number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions declined by 612,000 to 14.7 million. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent, and there were 17.7 million union workers” (representing a loss of three million members).

The report also differentiated union participation in the private and public sectors, to wit:

* “The union membership rate for public sector workers (36.2 percent) was substantially higher than the rate for private sector workers (6.9 percent).”

* “Workers in education, training, and library occupations had the highest unionization rate at 37.1 percent.”

* “Among states, New York had the highest union membership rate (24.2 percent) and North Carolina had the lowest rate (3.2 percent).”

* “In 2010, 7.6 million public sector employees belonged to a union, compared with 7.1 million union workers in the private sector.”

Translation: You are more likely to join a union if you work in government as opposed to the commercial sector.

The report also noted, “Texas had about one-fourth as many union members as New York, despite having 1.9 million more wage and salary employees.” Please keep in mind, Texas is a “Right To Work” state, New York is not. Also understand Texas has balanced their budget, New York has not. Coincidence?

“Right to Work” laws are implemented in 22 states, mostly in the south and west, and allows anyone to work without mandatory membership in a union (it prohibits “closed shops”). Labor Unions resent such laws as they perceive it as a threat to their survival. As America’s economy sputters, unions are now generally regarded as an excessive expense and a deterrent to productivity. This is why collective bargaining agreements with state government unions are being renegotiated, to at least get them in line with the benefits of unions in the private sector. Unions will, of course, fight this tooth and nail, as demonstrated recently in Wisconsin and elsewhere. As we approach the 2012 elections, union coffers will be emptied supporting candidates in any race that could have a bearing on their livelihood. In other words, everywhere. Should they lose, this would be a crippling blow to them and their numbers will dwindle even further. So much so, that maybe in the not too distant future we will celebrate Labor Day as nothing more than the end of summer and the start of a new school year.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Copyright © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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