Unions eye a new window for growth

What do lunch-bucket types who work the "high steel" have in common with high-tech workers who clatter on plastic keyboards?

A desire to have some real say regarding fair working conditions and pay.

For many in the latter group, finding that voice has been easy. Some employers have come right out and consulted with them, old hierarchies flattened.

That's if such workers felt like hanging around to negotiate. A dynamic decade armed them with the power to flee for better gigs, so employers also enticed them with promises of a fat share in their firm's success.

But with "stock options" now a punch line across the dotcom world, New Economy workers may share a heightened interest in unions with their Old Economy cousins - some of whom already feel the downdraft of recession.

Businesses maintain that the demands made by organized labor can be excessive, shackling them in red tape that slows productivity and results in higher operating costs, to be footed by consumers.

For what it's worth, government employees, not routinely singled out for efficiency, make up more than 40 percent of union workers.

But a great many workers have risked a lot to align themselves with "the only institution that equalizes the power relationship between employer and employee," as Joanne Ciulla put it last year in her book "The Working Life."

Women and black workers have gained the most. From 1973 to 1998, union membership was tied to bumps in salary ranging from 29 to 45 percent for black women, 22 to 51 percent for black men, and 15 to 37 percent for white women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Reach us at work@csps.com..

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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