Declining union membership, now around 11 percent including public sector, impacts democracy in the country as a whole. There is a decline of strike activity in this country.
The labor movement faces huge challenges, including internally. Unions must find solutions for disaffected members, including organizing internally, training shop stewards and educating members. Members often do not become involved until there is a strike. Unions must involve members by giving them something to do – activity breeds action. All power arises from the membership. In order to involve members, the union must internally organize. The power of the union depends on the support of the members. Unions need to create committees, such as action committees and internal organizing committees that also can educate members in the history and purpose of the labor movement and about economic and social justice issues.
Unions must connect with communities and become part of the social movement because everything is inter-connected. Unions have not always engaged in issues that exist in the community, such as the problem with prisons and systemic racism. Unions need to connect and support organizations within communities. There needs to be a labor/community program. There needs to be forums within the community to look at issues affecting all unions. Unions must connect with each other through labor councils and federations. When unions exist as a separate structure it causes conflict with other unions. Unions need to look at labor movements in other countries.
We cannot let the diminishing membership of unions diminish the visibility and role of unions in both the community and among the members. Unions are struggling with the democratic process. Currently, there is no power in unions because they are controlled by the few. Power needs to start from the bottom. Many union members see their union as working with corporations to keep workers in line. It always seems that unions have to yield to prevent layoffs. Concessions make us weaker. Unions cannot bring new members into a broken system. The right to organize can only work with a functional union. We need to organize against the attack on organizing and fight for the freedom to organize. Unions need to support immigrant workers. To be in a truly democratic United States, workers need to have a union in their work place.
We need to fight for and protect the right to organize and pass legislation for card check recognition. We need to develop internal organizing committees within existing unions in an effort to increase and encourage member participation and involvement and as a means of developing a true rank-and-file led organization. We need to join with community organizations as a means of strengthening both the labor movement and social justice. We need to support international working class solidarity and fair trade by joining international and regional labor organizations.