Numbers alone suggest that unions' political clout seems unlikely to translate to renewed strength, except in certain sectors or isolated instances. This holds true for private-sector unions and more specifically, unions in manufacturing.
Table of Contents:
- Organized Labor's Uncertain Future
- Eyes on the NLRB
President Barack Obama swept into office for a second term in November with a big assist from the country's union workers. According to a poll conducted by Hart Research for the AFL-CIO, 65% of union members voted for Obama, a percentage that leaped to 70% in key battleground state Ohio.
In a post-election press conference on Nov. 8, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka made it clear that labor's political influence would not end with the conclusion of the presidential election. "Starting tomorrow -- yes, I said tomorrow! -- working families across the country will be out in communities in close to 100 events to talk to members of Congress about the coming lame-duck session and fiscal showdown," he stated.
"The election was in many ways a great night for unions and for the people they support," says John Logan, professor and director of labor studies at San Francisco State University.
Indeed, the labor movement "is feeling its oats" as a result of the election, says Gary Chaison, professor of industrial relations at the Clark University Graduate School of Management and author of five books on the subject of organized labor. "Unions were very influential in the White House victory and that's because unions can point to their ability to get out the vote. So on one hand a lot is owed to them, but the question remains: Is it likely to be paid to them?"
See Also: Labor in the Headlines
The answer to that question can have significant impact on business as well as organized labor. Most likely, experts suggest, results will be mixed, with unions making gains in some areas and giving ground in others. And while manufacturers can expect renewed enthusiasm from unions in the wake of President Obama's successful reelection bid, less certain is whether increased activity will translate into increased might, or reverse private-sector unions' declining fortunes -- especially in manufacturing.