Saturday, October 30, 2010

Why Unions Are Focusing on the "Service" Industries

I get this question more often these days . . . from employers in the service industries -- hotels, food service, and the like, to include employers in technology who have never had to worry about their employees being approached by union organizers.

Why? Why me?

The answer is simple and straightforward -- as a percentage of the American workforce, the service sector has grown dramatically over the last 30 years while manufacturing has been not so slowly disappearing.

From its peak of 19.5 million in 1979, manufacturing employment has declined, on average, by about 1.5 million jobs each decade until 2001. Then it fell off a cliff: America lost 2.5 million manufacturing jobs from 2001 to 2007 and almost that much again during the latest recession.

Bottom line? 5 million American manufacturing jobs have disappeared since 2001, an astonishing 29% plunge in less than 10 years. Another way of looking at it -- the United States has lost more than 42,000 factories during that time.

Of course, unions stick to what they know as we all have a tendency to do, but there is less of what they know still around. Which leads to understanding the adage, "necessity breeds invention." And, from organized labor's standpoint, the disappearing manufacturing sector has become the mother of invention. Unions know that if they are to survive and thrive, they must go to where the people are and in the United States they are in hotels, restaurants, offices and retail stores.


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