American labor unions have been facing a heavy handed and often illegal assault by management, smear attacks by front organizations run by super-lobbyist Rick Berman, and years of job outsourcing and benefit and salary "givebacks" to management for years that have cut into the number of unionized American workers. But for the first time in two decades, the AFL-CIO has noted a small uptick in the number of unionized workers.
Between 2004 and 2006, American labor unions have witnessed a small increase in membership, creating a net gain of 136,000 members. 56,000 workers have joined the Postal Workers Union, 37,000 joined the Machinists Union, 66,000 joined Screen Actors Guild and 20,000 workers at Cingular Wireless joined the Communications Workers Of America Union.
But American unions are recognizing that since the economy is increasingly becoming a global entity, improved working conditions must expand to as many workers internationally as possible as well, and in December American labor will help to sponsor a global organizing summit. In nations such as China the mines rate as some of the most deadly in the world and an improved role for allowing legally recognized unions in this supposed worker's state could really save many lives each year.
Other goals for American labor include the push after the 2008 elections for the Employee Free Choice Act, when it is expected that the Democrats could gain both the White House and a stronger hold on both houses of Congress and designing new campaigns to organize more American workplaces and elevate salary, benefits and safety conditions for the workers.
Just when it looked like American labor unions were really on the ropes, they managed a small recent comeback, and it could help to improve the life of workers far beyond the shores of the U.S. as well if international organizing efforts are successful.
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