From last week’s McLaughlin Group (July 30), an exchange between Pat Buchanan and Mort Zuckerman on the AFL-CIO split:
MR. BUCHANAN: There’s no doubt it is a blow to the Democrats. And what Eleanor said is very important earlier. The future of the labor movement is in service workers and it’s government workers, John, because the industrial unions are dying. We are exporting all of their jobs overseas, whether it’s textile or steel or (atomic?) workers or auto workers. All of that’s going overseas. Free trade is killing the labor movement.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that the timing —
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I’m sorry. It’s not just that it’s going overseas. Automation has changed those industries.
MR. BUCHANAN: Automation —
MR. ZUCKERMAN: They don’t need anywhere near — two-thirds of those workers are no longer needed to produce more cars and more steel. It’s automation.
MR. BUCHANAN: Globalization is killing them too.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: That’s another part of it. And automation doesn’t apply to the service workers.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to ask —
MR. ZUCKERMAN: That’s why the future is there. I agree with that.
A little earlier Mr. Zuckerman says, “There’s been a complete transformation of the nature of the workforce in America. Thirty-five years ago, if you look at the auto workers and the steel workers, for example, 78 percent of them did not have a high school education. Today everybody is educated. It’s much less attractive to join a union, both culturally and politically.”
In addition, the move to a post-industrial, service and information-oriented economy in America, and the resulting lack of mobility and innovation in some places (like Michigan), has played a large part in driving down union membership.