Unions in the US have hardly grown in more than 30 years. The private sector trade unions enroll but one out of every 14 workers. Meanwhile the strike has practically vanished from the American landscape - there were at least ten times more each year in the 1970s - and the negotiation of a new union contract, in both the public and private sectors, is considered a labor victory if the workers escape without too many givebacks.
But the fate of unionism is all about class power in American society and the ideologies that motivate those who either defend or defame these institutions. It is the unions -- in their sometimes plodding and prosaic fashion -- that have long ameliorated the stark disparities of wealth and income that an unfettered capitalism so naturally produces. By the far greater impact on the distribution of American wealth and power is the existence of a union movement and the prospect that it might one day grow again.
When they are strong, unions can limit the prerogatives of individual businessmen, government officials and the untamed workings of the labor market. Free-marketeers find all this intolerable, which is why governors like Scott Walker and New Jersey's Chris Christie so often seek to demonize the trade unions as corrupt and omnipotent. Fortunately, that rhetoric has found its limit, first in Ohio and now in Wisconsin where more than a million citizens put down their names endorsing the union idea.
In a stunning achievement for trade unionist opponents of the Wisconsin governor Scott Walker marshaled over a million signatures for a petition that has made it possible for Walker to lose his office in a recall election this spring. If so, that would be the first successful gubernatorial recall in Wisconsin history and only the third in that of the United States. Coming on the heels of the November referendum in Ohio, which overturned a similar Republican-sponsored law, it's clear that the American trade union movement is not yet dead.
Extracted from here