A resident scholar in economic policy for a think tank "dedicated to defending human dignity, expanding human potential, and building a freer and safer world" weighs in on the timely topic of today's unions.
According to the liberal Economic Policy Institute, over 16 million working women and men in the United States are represented by unions.
"Overall, more than one in nine U.S. workers are represented by unions," says an EPI press release. "This representation makes organized labor one of the largest institutions in America."
EPI adds unions represent a diverse set of workers from a variety of sectors, the biggest of which are education and health services. Still, Aparna Mathur of the center-right American Enterprise Institute (AEI) does not think unions are relevant today.
"There was a time when there was a huge demand for unions because you could actually enforce, let's say, worker safety standards, bargaining for higher wages," Mathur poses. "You needed unions to be stronger, and you wanted people to be a part of a union because there were employers not guaranteeing workers basic safety issues and compensation." But she adds, "I think we are well past that."
Mathur says the last few decades have seen a general decline in union membership and worker demand for unions.
"That has a lot to do with the challenges that workers are facing today," she continues. "You know, it's very different, the kind of issues that workers are dealing with, the fact that people have been facing job losses because of automation, globalization. I think there is a limit to how much workers can shield workers from those kinds of situations," she comments.
Even so, EPI and other think tanks maintain unions can and do get better wages and benefits for workers. EPI points out that "unions raise wages for both union and nonunion workers."
"Unions pitch this argument that there are a lot of benefits going to non-union members as well, but I think increasingly people are not valuing being part of a collective unit," Mathur responds. "They want recognition for their individual expertise and so on."
Pointing to the spread of Right to Work laws across the country, the AEO resident scholar believes the reason more than half the states have adopted these measures is because "they want to be business friendly," and this "allows them to create more jobs."