Declining union membership is bad for democracy

2013-02-03T06:00:00Z Declining union membership is bad for democracyCap Times editorial
February 03, 2013 6:00 am  • 

The headlines report that union membership among American workers is now at the lowest rate in almost a century.

That’s bad news for workers.

And bad news for democracy.

Who says? The U.S. State Department, which in its efforts to promote democracy around the world has frequently noted the link between strong, independent trade unions and a robust democracy.

As a recent State Department report noted: “Trade unions play an important role in addressing poverty and building up democratic participation. The primary goal of unions is to promote the economic well-being of their members, but unions also engage in the democratic process in order to achieve their goals and thus are natural promoters of democracy in society. Trade unions protect human rights and promote public accountability. Where free unions are allowed to operate, political extremism is less likely to flourish.” Indeed, the report concluded, “free trade unions help to provide the underpinning for economic growth and democracy by contributing to the emergence of a stable, fairly paid, working middle-class.”

The report was talking about other countries.

But it makes sense to practice what we preach.

There is nothing to celebrate in the decline of union membership in the United States. It is bad news for workers, bad news for economic growth, and bad news for American democracy.

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