The Wisconsin recall election was about many things, ranging from American voters’ willingness to back significant fiscal reform, their dislike of using recall mechanisms for anything but the most serious of derelictions, to confirming the growing polarization of Americans that has accelerated since the realities of “Hope-’n-Change” were unleashed in January 2009. But if there is one group among whom the failed recall effort should provoke significant soul-searching, it is unions — and not just public-sector unions, but the union movement throughout the West in general.
The evidence for declining union membership across the developed world is overwhelming. According to the OECD’s Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs, just 11.9 percent of American employees were unionized in 2008, compared to peak numbers of about 35 percent in the 1950s. The same report specified American unions were also experiencing an overall decline in membership numbers.