Recent Labor Trends

Recent Trends in Labor and Employment

Decline in Union

For the past forty years there has been a
steady decline in both union membership and influence. There are
several reasons for such a decline.

The first having to do with employers keeping
their businesses union-free. Some were active in their opposition and
even hired consultants to devise legal strategies to combat unions.
Other employers put workers on the management team by appointing them
to the board of directors or establishing profit-sharing plans to
reward employees.

The second reason for union decline is that new
additions to the labor force have traditionally had little loyalty to
organized labor. Because more and more women and teenagers are
working and their incomes tend to be a family’s second income, they
have a proclivity towards accepting lower wages, thus defeating the
purpose of organized labor.

The third and possibly the most important
reason for the decline in unions is that they are victims of their
own success. Unions raised their wages substantially above the wages
paid to nonunion workers. Therefore, many union-made products have
become so expensive that salves were lost to less expensive foreign
competitors. And nonunion producers. This resulted in companies
having to cut back on production, which caused some workers to lose
their jobs, and hence, unions some of their members.

The fourth reason for the decline or organized
labor has been the transition to a post industrial economy.
Industrial and manufacturing jobs, long the bastion of union
membership, have declined in recent years. American workers are now
more highly educated then ever before and have tended to move towards
white collar jobs not traditionally associated with union membership.

Various Forms of Discrimination and
Reactions by Government

1. Sex Discrimination

There is a considerable gap between the income
of women and men. One reason for this gender inequality is that men
and women are not evenly distributed among the various occupations.
For instance, men tend to incline towards higher paying jobs, and
women have been crowded into a few lower-paid occupations. An example
would be how more men than women enter construction and engineering
professions, while women tend to prefer household service and office
worker occupations. Because engineering wages tend to be higher than
those of a household worker are, men- on average- will earn more than
women. Another reason for income inequality is that childbearing,
which affects their seniority, interrupts many women’s careers. Yet
all these reasons for income disparity do not justify the difference
between pay for the same occupation. Discrimination is often a major
cause of income differences. Women feel that their difficulties in
getting raises and promotions are described in the term glass
ceiling, an invisible barrier that hinders their advancement up the
white male-dominated corporate ladder.

2. Age Discrimination

A condition under which an individual, who is
covered under this provision, is treated unfavorably by his or her
employer due to their age. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act
(ADEA) of 1967 prohibits the employers from discriminating on the
basis of age. The prohibited practices are almost identical to those
stipulated in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, meaning that
it applies to most employers engaged in interstate commerce with more
than 15 employers, and prohibits discrimination in hiring or
referring applicants. Under the ADEA, individuals between the ages
of 40 and 70 are protected except in the case of Federal employees
who have no upper age boundary. Basically, under age discrimination
legislation, an individual is covered when an employer discriminates
in hiring, firing, wage benefits, hours worked, and availability of
overtime based on age.

3. Discrimination of the

In the last ten years discrimination of the
disabled has become an increasingly important issue. Employers tend
to not give seriosly consideration to minority workers regardless of
qulaifications. A disabled person is defined as one who has a
physical or mental impairment that greatly limits one or more of
their life activities. As far as handicapped discrimination, there
are two types. First there is the discrimination when an employee or
applicant is treated differently on the basis of their condition.
The second type of discrimination is when an organization fails to
make accommodations for disabled employees. The Americans with
Disabilities Act was enacted to eradicate discrimination against
those with handicaps throughout society. It embellishes on those
provisions in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. ADA thus
requires that employers make reasonable accomadtions in hiring
disabled workers. They can refuse to not hire a disabled worker based
upon the diability only if the accomadtion would present great cost
or interruption of the business practice or if the disability makes
it impossible to do the job effectivly.

4. Race Discrimination

Racial discrimination is present when employers
treat an employee differently than others who are similarly
established because they are members of a specific race. It can
occur when one is discriminated against because of unalterable
characteristics of their race. The courts have also found that
racial discrimination occurs when employees are treated differently
than other employees because of their interracial relations (such as
dating or marriage), racially oriented expression of attitudes and
beliefs, or membership in racially oriented groups or organizations.
The courts have stated that racial discrimination does not only
pertain to those of a minority race. Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964 is the key piece of legislation that counteracts racial
discrimination. It applies to most employers engaged in interstate
commerce with more than 15 employers. It makes it illegal for
employers to discriminate in hiring, discharging, compensation, or
terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.

Web Sites:

National Institute of Environmental
Health Services- Office of Equal Employement


Legal Information Institute

The Minimum Wage

Because prices tend to increase over time, due
to inflation, the purchasing power of the minimum wage is constantly
being eroded. In order to see how the minimum wage looks without the
effects of inflation, economist measure in terms of real dollars,
which are adjusted in a way that removes the distortion inflation
causes. To measure in real dollars, a base year is selected. Next,
goods and services for all years are valued in terms of the base year
prices. By holding prices constant, inflation is removed sot that
other changes are observed more clearly from one period to another.
When the effects of inflation are added in, prices go up, and the
minimum wage remains constant. This means that the purchasing power
of the minimum wage will continue to progressively decline.
Periodically the minimum wage is raised but there is always a
political battle waged between the Republicans representing big
business and the Democrats representing the working class. In time
the minimum wage becomes unacceptably low to voters who then pressure
their elected officials. Some legislators have discussed linking the
minimum wage to inflation, so that the wage will rise when prices