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Special Report: Are Unions Obsolete?

8:00 AM, May 3, 2014 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
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The Washington Examiner is up with a five part special report on "the rise and current decline of organized labor in America: How unions lost touch with the workplace and their own members." It's authored by Sean Higgins, one of the best reporters on the labor beat. Union politics can be complicated, and the introductory piece on "Big Labor's identity crisis" is an excellent place to start:

For decades, “union man” meant hard hats, lunch pails and blue-collar jobs for millions of American autoworkers, machinists and coal miners.

A union job meant good pay and benefits, but it also promised lots of hard work and, in many cases, a real possibility of being injured.

Back in the 1950s, when U.S. manufacturing dominated the world, one of every three American workers carried a union card.

Unions were taken for granted as a part of American life. Their leaders could even be bipartisan when the occasion required working with political leaders on both sides of the aisle.

Not today. Big Labor represents far fewer workers, and its leaders are closely tied to the Democratic Party. Half of the nation's unionists are white-collar government employees, not private sector workers.

Union membership has been sliding for years, with only 14.5 million people now in a union, or about 11.3 percent of the U.S. workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

You can read the rest of the series here.

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