Originally Posted by horatio
First, unionization has always been highest in the second sector so it is natural that union membership is declining while services are becoming more important than industry
Why? It only makes sense to organize yourself in a union if companies are large which is often the case in the second sector whereas the third one is more of a mixed bag, i.e. there are large companies like banks and insurance companies and so on but e.g. a barber or server do not work in large companies.
Furthermore I guess that monopoly rents have been higher in industry back in the days than today (globalization; there is more competition nowadays on output markets) and higher than in the service sector. When there is a profit based on market power it has to be distributed between labour and capital so unionization makes sense to get "a piece of the action". While there is also a lack of competition in the service sector, e.g. in finance, employees directly bargain for a part of these rents as it is hard to imagine unionized financial engineers or traders due to ideological reasons.
And last but not least capital has become more powerful since the eighties and tried to crush organized labour. Just take a look at what Thatcher did in the eighties or what Scott Walker, the henchman of the Koch brothers, did in Wisconsin last year.
So in my opinion unionization has declined partly because of economic fundamentals and partly because of political economical reasons.
So would it be accurate to say that in addition to the politics where big business has become more powerful over the years, that in places such as the US where the economy has shifted away from being industrial to more of a service based economy, unions that essentially were established under an industrial economy are struggling as a result?
I recall in the 90s around the time Boeing moved its headquarters from Seattle to Chicago, there was a large push by the new Boeing leadership to move away being and aircraft designer and manufacturer. I think the term that was used was that Boeing would become an "integrator". All the engineering work would be done else where such as in Russia. Manufacturing of major components of the plane would done in places like China, Japan, or by other companies in the US (not simple things like wires, buttons, etc but the actual wings major parts) and then all would be shipped to the Seattle area for final assembly. I know it had engineers up in arms, not just because of the attack on their livelihood but also the fact that designing and building aircraft is a lot different than building a car. It's difficult enough to do even when everything is done in house. While Boeing never did implement such a plan to the extent they had intended, a lot less stuff is done in house and the realities of aircraft designing and manufacturing has pretty much come back to bite them in the butt. I think there was even an attempt to also implement just in time manufacturing on top of it all, which was laughable.