Commentary: Contra media, labor unions are fading, not flourishing

Unions are absolutely not surging; they're fading out of existence, losing nearly a quarter-million members last year alone.

Teamsters Local 533 on strike in Reno, Nevada, in October 2021. (Unsplash)

In recent months, the partisan media has tried to rehabilitate the slow death of organized labor.

TIME Magazine boasted late last year that unions are “having a moment; CNBC was fulsome this spring, claiming they see a “boom” in organizing; and progressives promote surveys showing the public has never liked labor unions more.

Sure, there are recent unionization attempts at liberal bastions like Amazon, Apple, Google, Starbucks and even within media, but attempting to unionize does not mean you’re succeeding. More pointedly, the employees unionizing in these quixotic campaigns are demolished by the tens of thousands who increasingly reject organized labor.

Unions are absolutely not surging; they’re fading out of existence, losing nearly a quarter-million members last year alone. The ongoing collapse is striking, when we realize it’s not just private sector unions.

The American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees have lost anywhere from 4 to 9% of members; cumulatively the behemoths have gone from 5.3 million active members to fewer than 4.9 million. That’s nearly a half-million drop.

Why? Maybe workers want freedom from the mindless, selfish bigotry. When I was a big city schoolteacher, and until only four years ago, teachers and public sector workers were legally required to join these unions, even as many abhorred them. That’s called forced unionization.

Then came the life-changing Janus decision, where Supreme Court justices ruled that no government employee can be forced to pay fees to a union. A recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows that noble ruling has reduced public union workers down to only 7 million. That’s far too many pilfering taxpayer money for left-wing politics, but also the lowest total in several decades.

Private sector unions are hardly faring better. Considering that the United States’ population has grown by more than 100 million people the last half century, it’s stunning that private sector unions have fewer than half the members they did in 1972.

Perhaps freedom and self-reliance are enticing.

Since 2010, states like Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, West Virginia, and Wisconsin have enacted right-to-work laws. In these places and others with similar common sense, both public and private sector workers are allowed to choose whether they want to contribute to unions.

With this option, it’s easy to presume sensible employees will break away from unions’ grasp in the coming years, especially when private sector companies’ collective bargaining agreements conclude.

Meanwhile, in the public sector, more states will likely move to apply the Janus decision, allowing employees to gather information and liberate themselves from regressive union power.

We’ve long heard and read lies about the “resurgence” of labor unions. But the steady decline in membership shows a runaway train down hill that won’t stop. For our legacy media to declare unions are “back” is political posturing that belies data and reality.


A.J. Kaufman

A.J. Kaufman is an Alpha News columnist. His work has appeared in the Baltimore Sun, Florida Sun-Sentinel, Indianapolis Star, Israel National News, Orange County Register, St. Cloud Times, Star-Tribune, and across AIM Media Midwest and the Internet. Kaufman previously worked as a school teacher and military historian.