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Overcoming the Challenges to Organizing in Manufacturing

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[Excerpt] By 2002, the decline of organizing in the U.S. manufacturing sector has reached crisis proportions. In the 1930s it was industrial organizing that built the labor movement and brought a decent standard of living to millions of industrial workers, their families, and communities across the country. Absent intensive efforts to organize the nation's most mobile industries, U.S. workers will lose their only hedge against the worst effects of the global economy, and American manufacturing employers will lead the race to the bottom in workplace democracy, wages, working conditions, and living standards. The American labor movement needs its industrial base in order to regain both union density and the political and economic power that goes with it. The question is not whether manufacturing will disappear in the U.S., for there will always be goods produced in this country; the question is what kinds of manufacturing jobs those will be and whether they will be unionized. It is because of this crisis that the AFL-CIO asked us to research the current state of organizing in manufacturing and make recommendations for strategies that would be effective at taking on and winning against the large multinational corporations that dominate the manufacturing sector. This report summarizes the findings from our research. The first section, Part I, examines changes that have occurred in manufacturing industries over the last five years in employment, union membership, union density, workforce demographics, and trade and investment relative to changes in other sectors and industries. Part II presents summary data for all NLRB elections in the last five years, comparing changes in certification election activity and outcomes in manufacturing industries relative to changes in other sectors and industries. In this section we also analyze NLRB election activity in the context of the changes in employment, union density, workforce demographics, and trade and investment summarized in Part I.

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labor movement; unions; organizing; manufacturing; AFL-CIO; globalization


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