The Future of Unions

January 29, 2021 • Volume 31, Issue 5
Will they revive under the Biden presidency?
By Holly Rosenkrantz


The election of union ally Joe Biden and control of both the House and Senate by the traditionally labor-friendly Democratic Party have spurred predictions that the union movement may see renewed momentum during Biden's presidency. However, the movement was unable to get Congress to enact a key legislative goal — a bill that would have made it easier to unionize — a decade ago, when the Democrats also controlled the White House and Congress. Battling declining membership, unions hope a Democratic Party that now has a vocal progressive wing, coupled with the economic pressures of the pandemic, will give their agenda greater urgency. They also argue that by negotiating for higher wages, unions help decrease the nation's growing wealth and income gaps. But powerful forces that have long contributed to the decline of unions remain in place, including increased automation, the outsourcing and globalization of manufacturing due to free trade agreements, the rise of the gig economy and aggressive corporate anti-union efforts.

Photo of striking union workers marching to a Verizon office in New York City in 2016. (Getty Images/LightRocket/Erik McGregor)
Striking union workers march to a Verizon office in New York City in 2016. While union membership has been declining steadily for years, the movement hopes to make gains during the pro-union Biden administration. (Getty Images/LightRocket/Erik McGregor)
ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Workforce Protections
Jan. 29, 2021  The Future of Unions
May 04, 2018  Worker Safety
Jul. 19, 2013  Telecommuting
May 21, 2004  Worker Safety
May 02, 2003  Asbestos Litigation
Jul. 19, 1996  Crackdown on Sexual Harassment
Aug. 09, 1991  Sexual Harassment
Apr. 13, 1990  Reforming Workers' Compensation
Mar. 09, 1990  Asbestos: Are the Risks Acceptable?
Feb. 16, 1990  Repetitive Motion: New Job Ailment
Nov. 25, 1988  Fired for No Good Cause: Is It Legal?
Jun. 07, 1985  Safety and Health in the Workplace
Dec. 24, 1976  Job Health and Safety
Sep. 26, 1947  Mine Safety
Jan. 18, 1946  Fair Practice in Employment
Campaigns and Elections
Data and Statistics
Economic Development
Employee Benefits
Equal Employment Opportunity & Discrimination
General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)
General Employment and Labor
General Social Trends
Government Labor-Management Relations
Infectious Diseases
Labor Standards and Practices
Manufacturing and Industrial Production
North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
Party Politics
Powers and History of the Presidency
Retirement, Pensions, and Social Security
Unemployment and Employment Programs
Unions and Labor-Management Relations
Workplace Safety and Worker's Compensation
World War II