Union Leaders Rethink Their Approach As Numbers Dwindle

Jul 25, 2017

Pennsylvania union leaders are attempting to chart a new course after decades of declining membership.

As members have dwindled, unions' once-strong political sway toward the Democratic party has also shifted.

The change was especially apparent last year, when an overwhelming number of white, union or former union members voted for Donald Trump.

Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale recently wrapped up what he calls a "listening tour" around the commonwealth. He said in his discussions with current and former members, he often hears that they feel alienated by the left, and by unions themselves.

"I think we were speaking too much at them, rather than having conversations with them," he said.

Bloomingdale also suggested that it could be time to completely rethink unions' close ties with the left.

He noted that workers' concerns are often the same, regardless of their political affiliation.

"We may have gotten too close to one party," he said. "We should be for people who are for us, regardless of party label."

Issues like fair wages, good trade agreements and accessible health care, Bloomingdale said, need to be at the forefront of unions' messaging-not party.