Union officials claim, as many as 44 million workers in America would join a union if they had a chance, but employers routinely block attempts to form unions. Increasingly, elected leaders, community groups and religious leaders are demanding that companies stop breaking the law and hindering workers' efforts to form unions. In 1935, Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act, giving workers the right to form unions and negotiate contracts with their employers. Under the law, workers have the right to express their views on unions, to talk with their co-workers, attend union meetings and to decide for themselves whether they want union representation, without interference by the employer. To combat the union advocates, employers often force workers to attend mandatory meetings, presenting anti-union presentations. Under the law, it is perfectly legal for employers to discipline or even fire workers for failing to attend these meetings, and workers who support the union can be forbidden to attend.
Union membership has remained relatively steady through out the past decade. According to the AFL-CIO, the number of union members in 2002 is about the same level as it was 5 years ago in 1997, despite adverse trends in hard-hit sectors such as manufacturing and the effects of the current recession. The number of union members in the United States in 2002 was 16.1 million compared to 16.14 million members in 2001. The AFL-CIO represents 13 million working men and women. Since 1996, two and a half million workers have formed new unions. (AFL-CIO, 2003). Still, the number of members is declining. U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics clearly shows, in the past 5 years, unions have lost over a million members.
Percentage of Workers Who Belong to Unions, 1995-2002
Membership as a Percentage of Payrolls...