Everett M. Kassalow
Articles about the "crisis" or the "stagnation" of the American trade-union movement have become common, one is tempted to say "fashionable," in recent years. This crisis-ridden or stagnant institution nevertheless still seems to be very much alive, judging by some of the monumental collective-bargaining advances of recent years or by its heavy participation in the recent election campaign. There is, however, some important evidence of slowdown in union growth, and a kind of semi-isolation which seems to have overtaken the unions in the past decade.
The simplest standard which can be applied in this respect is the membership test—has union membership grown in recent years? Latest surveys of the U.S. Department of Labor, covering the year 1962, put union membership at 16.6 million. This is a formidable figure, but it represents a decline of nearly one million from the peak reached in 1956. Of even greater significance is that this decline took place in the face of a growing labor force. As a result, union membership which made up over 33 per cent of all nonagricultural employment in 1956 was down to less than go per cent in 1962.
Doubtless many factors have contributed to the reversal of union growth which had been a continuous process from the mid‐ thirties into the mid-fifties, with time out only for the postwar adjustment period. But no other factor has been more important than the sweeping changes which have occurred in the labor force in the past decade. Most notable of these changes has been