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American Labor Unions in Global Economy

Labor unions became a vital part of the United States’ employment system in the 20th century (Fossum, 2012). Bargaining with organizations on behalf of workers, they helped to promote better employment conditions and fight violations of workers’ rights in the workplace. However, since the 1950s, labor unions experienced a steady decrease in numbers (Fossum, 2012). As explained by Moyers and Stern (2007), the changes to the American economy affected labor unions and their bargaining power, presenting new challenges. In response, trade unions are starting to change and evolve in order to adapt to new working conditions (Moyers & Stern, 2007). This essay aims to outline the effect of globalization on the labor unions in the United States and to describe the likely future of these organizations.

The future of labor unions in the United States is largely influenced by globalization. Globalization has already caused significant changes in the American market. For instance, it made businesses more competitive and facilitated diversity in workplaces (Moyers & Stern, 2007). As businesses strive to maintain their market share in the new globalized economy, they opt for cutting business costs, which causes employee cuts, refusal to offer corporate insurance, and other workforce issues. Furthermore, globalization created a social division through increased diversity and changes to profit distribution (Moyers & Stern, 2007).

According to Vachon and Wallace (2013), the overall effect of globalization is decreased union density, which weakens labor unions affects their power of promoting employee rights, which will most likely cause the demise of these organizations in the foreseeable future. Moreover, as noted by Moyers and Stern (2007), globalization also promoted unions’ involvement in political issues, which might not be an appropriate course of action.

However, globalization also presents many opportunities, and labor unions might use some of them to retain power and influence. For instance, Moyers & Stern (2007) state that labor unions will most likely re-emerge as “an issue-based movement that really holds people accountable” (para. 83). Indeed, in a new diverse workforce, workers’ rights issues are both relevant and important. For example, foreign workers face significant difficulties, such as discrimination and unfair pay.

Thus, labor unions could adjust to globalization and increase their presence in the American labor system by expanding the scope of workforce issues they advocate. Labor unions should focus on adjusting their agenda and actions to fit the new workforce. This will most likely improve union density and involvement, allowing labor unions to stay an important part of the U.S. economy and continue to advocate for workers’ rights. Therefore, the future of labor unions will be determined not only by the effects of globalization but also by the decisions made by union leaders.

Overall, globalization has largely affected the American labor market, creating significant challenges for businesses, workers, and labor unions. Today, businesses are under pressure to cut costs to retain their ability to compete with foreign companies. This affects workers through pay cuts and other workplace issues. Labor unions could potentially help to solve the problem; however, they are focused on fighting the effects of globalization rather than using the opportunities it provides. Addressing workforce issues that are driven by increased diversity and other trends linked to globalization, while at the same time maintaining political neutrality, would help labor unions to achieve and preserve a significant influence in the American labor market.


Fossum, J. A. (2012). Labor relations: Development, structure, process (11th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Moyers, B., & Stern, A. (2007). . Web.

Vachon, T. E., & Wallace, M. (2013). Globalization, labor market transformation, and union decline in US metropolitan areas. Labor Studies Journal, 38(3), 229-255.

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