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The relationship between management and unions is complex. On the one hand, unions and management collaborate and come to agreement on how workers should be compensated, and what rights and safety measures must be observed to maintain a healthy working environment.
On the other hand, there is inherently some conflict of interest. Indeed, the foundations of unions is largely one of bringing workers together to ensure (and fight for) proper rights, compensation, and treatment by the organizations. As a result, there is some compromise involved in how unions and management negotiate.
Current Trends in Labor Unions
The most significant trend in the United States when considering labor unions is fairly simple. They are far less prevalent now than they used to be. The initial rise of labor unions in the United States occurred during the Great Depression (1930's), which has steadily decreased over time. This decrease in labor union participation has also been seen internationally, particularly in recent years. This could be for a number of reasons, but the outcome is the same. Labor unions since the turn of the millennium only represent a small fraction of the U.S. workforce (as illustrated in the chart below).
The trends in labor unions are many, but particularly worthy of note are the impacts of globalization, decrease in manufacturing, and deregulation.
Union labor laws are domestic, which is to say that the rights of employees are protected by the national government where they reside. As a result, globalization offers the capability for businesses to exploit areas without unions (often with lower labor costs) while diminishing the bargaining power of unions domestically (wherever that may be).
It's also worth noting that many union-oriented industries have seen some declines in the United States. Manufacturing, for example, is often outsourced. With fewer employees in union-protected industries, it's a natural trend that unions will represent a smaller portion of the overall national workforce.
Finally, politics and unions are interdependent. Some economists and researchers have noted that political approaches during the 1980's created an impact on the ability for employers to diminish the power of unions. This supposition is supported by the decline of unions alongside the propensity for illegal firings during union campaigns (see chart below).
All and all, management in modern times has seen a lower amount of participation in union negotiations on behalf of organizations. This is primarily reflected by lower union involvement in many industries, alongside the rise of globalization and outsourcing.
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