The Democratic Party, which has counted on the support of labor unions for decades, may be in real trouble if that support is a linchpin of their strategy for 2020. As compared to 35 years ago, there are only half the number of wage and salaried workers in the United States who are members of labor unions.
The Pew Research Center reports, “In 2017, just 10.7% of wage and salaried workers in the United States were members of labor unions, down from 20.1% in 1983 (the first year for which comparable data are available), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”
Pew also notes the partisan divide regarding labor unions, writing, “Today, there’s a 30-percentage-point gap between Democrats and Republicans in views of labor unions: 70% of Democrats hold a favorable view, compared with 40% of Republicans. By contrast, while roughly two-thirds of Republicans (65%) view business corporations favorably, fewer Democrats (46%) express positive views.”
Axios points out further trouble for Democrats: “Dying union membership has been most pronounced in states such as Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — states where manufacturing employment has plummeted and Trump won in 2016, per Brookings.”
Brookings surmised some reasons for the decline of membership in unions, including an economy that was more service-based rather than based on manufacturing; the growth in the number of college degrees; the concomitant rise in the tech world offering better jobs, and notably, the spread of right-to-work legislation.
On Sunday, as Huffington Post reported, Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO union federation, which is comprised of 55 unions, slammed President Trump, telling Fox News’ Chris Wallace, “I’ve tried to call balls and strikes with him. When he does something that’s good for workers, I say so. When he does something that’s bad for workers, I say so. And I have to say, unfortunately, while he may not even know what his administration is doing, they’ve done more things to hurt workers than they have to help them.”
Trumka added, “He came to our members and said, ‘I’m going to change the rules of the economy,’ and they believed him. And, quite frankly, I wish he would have changed the rules of the economy. Unfortunately, the rules he’s changing has hurt them. He’s opposed every increase in the minimum wage. He’s changed the regulation to take overtime away from a couple of million people. … He’s rolled back health and safety standards [for] workers.”
On Monday morning, Trump fired back, tweeting:
Just watched AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on @FoxNews and thought to myself how different he is on TV than he is when he is with me at the White House. Likes what we are doing until the cameras go on. We got robbed on Trade and everything else while his Dems just sat back and watched. NAFTA is the worst Trade Deal ever made – terrible for labor – and Richard let it stand. No wonder unions are losing so much. The workers will vote for me in 2020 (lowest unemployment, most jobs ever), and should stop paying exorbitant $Dues, not worth it!