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A sign of the decline of traditional labor unions came in May when the United Automobile Workers raised its membership dues for the first time in 27 years to help offset declining membership. Also, the defeat in February of the UAW's effort to unionize workers at Volkswagen's Chattanooga, Tennessee, plant was a setback to labor.
A 2013 Gallup poll showed that 54 percent of Americans said they approved of labor unions, down from the all-time high of 75 percent in both 1953 and 1957.
"Labor unions play a diminishing role in the private sector, but they still claim a large share of the public sector workforce," says Chris Edwards, director of tax studies at the libertarian, free-market Cato Institute.
"Public sector unions are important to examine because they have a major influence on government policies through their vigorous lobbying efforts. ... They are particularly influential in states that allow monopoly unionization through collective bargaining."
Since 2000, factories have shed more than 5 million jobs. Five states — Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina Georgia and Texas — ban collective bargaining in the public sector.