Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

AFL-CIO Lays Off Union Members


The vaunted AFL-CIO—the self-proclaimed “voice for working families”—is laying off a whole lot of workers. As Bloomberg‘s Josh Eidelson reports, “The AFL-CIO is dismissing dozens of staff members as part of a restructuring amid continuing declines in union membership and fresh political threats to labor rights.”

The federation’s spin was predictable. “We will have to end support for some programs that don’t go to our core priorities,” said spokesman Josh Goldstein, “This is about reimagining and realigning our core priorities to best serve our affiliates.” But the devil’s in the details. The affected employees—an exact number is unclear—included not only AFL-CIO management, but also union members. Several sources claim that “several dozen jobs were lost,” potentially affecting hundreds of people between unemployed workers and their families.

The AFL-CIO joins the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which recently announced a 30-percent budget reduction by next year. Not surprisingly, an SEIU spokeswoman claimed in corporate speak that the budget cut is a way to “realign our resources and streamline our investments.”

In 2016, only 14.6 million employees were union members—a drop to about 10 percent of the workforce. There are 240,000 fewer union employees now than in 2015. While public-sector union membership remained steady at 34.4 percent, only 6.4 percent of private-sector employees are members of a labor union—down from one-third of workers in the 1950s.

As fewer union members pledge allegiance to Big Labor, you can expect trimmer budgets, more reimagining, and creative press releases.

Categories: AFL-CIO