Will Unions Get Stronger Because of the Recession?

June 2009
The recession has companies cutting pay and benefits, and laying off workers. If you throw a labor union into the fray these days, things suddenly get very analytical, if not contentious. As the Greeley Tribune notes, unions for employees at King Soopers, Greeley-Evans School District 6, Swift meatpacking, and the City of Greeley are all at the bargaining table, not always fighting for better benefits, but sometimes, rather, to keep things the way they are. Workers know the economy isn't what it used to be but don't necessarily trust the bean counters to tell them so. For instance, Greeley's police union is going to independently verify whether the city is facing a budget crunch before offering any concessions, as they've been asked. And, as several unions step up their outreach to new workers, the recession could boost union memberships, says Christine Marsten, an economics professor at the University of Northern Colorado: "People are feeling insecure about their jobs, and unions offer more job protection. That could be one of the positives of unions right now." Meanwhile, state employees asked legislative budget makers yesterday to consider eliminating some of the $1.6 billion in tax exemptions to improve their own pay and health care, according to the Denver Business Journal. That's no help to the 7.6 percent of people without jobs in Colorado and, as Summit Daily News reports, the 9.6 percent without jobs in Eagle County.