Public sector workers are unionized at much higher rates than private sector workers—35.9 percent to 6.6 percent—and if you pay attention to monthly jobs reports, the public sector has been shedding jobs while the private sector adds them (albeit slowly). And of course unions are under fierce attack in both the public and private sectors, through legislation targeting public workers in states like Wisconsin and through the pitched warfare of intimidation and firings in retail stores and restaurants and factories.
"Working women and men urgently need a voice on the job today, but the sad truth is that it has become more difficult for them to have one," AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in response to the figures. "What will define the labor movement of the future, however, is not assaults or the changing economy, but how working people come together to respond to them. We enter 2013 with our eyes open and understand that these challenges offer real opportunities for working people to reshape the future."
When Trumka says the question is "how working people come together," that should and must mean not just union members but all workers, since we know that the continuing decline in union membership is bad news for all workers.