Unions Growing Among “New Era” Work Force

For Immediate Release
February 8, 2001
CONTACT: Paula McKenzie

New Report on Professional, Technical Workers and Unions Released

Washington, DC — The AFL-CIO’s Department for Professional Employees (DPE) today released a new publication: The Professional and Technical Work Force: A New Frontier for Unions which surveys America’s rapidly expanding professional and technical occupations and the development of unions within them.

Jack Golodner, President of the DPE, notes that “At the beginning of the last century, the most highly skilled workers of the time — printers, musicians, machinists, etc. — were forming and joining new style labor organizations and leading the way to unions for millions of other workers. Now, at the dawn of another century, increasing numbers of teachers, nurses, IT technicians, writers, performers, and even physicians are joining and transforming union organizations to fit a new era.”

The 99-page report provides an introduction to a new labor movement that is attracting a growing number of professional, technical and administrative workers who seek a voice at the work place and in the new economy. Individual sections of the report discuss: teachers and college professors; librarians; health care professionals and technicians; professional performing artists; scientists and engineers; social service professionals; science and engineering technicians; the computer related professions; and broadcast, cable and telecommunications professionals and technicians.

Using government data, the report challenges the notion that unions are unwilling to, or incapable of attracting highly skilled white collar workers — especially in the professions. According to the report, the professional occupations now boast the most union members of any occupational classification. Furthermore, this occupational group has the second highest percentage (or density) of union representation.

The publication also discusses several issues of concern to today’s “knowledge workers”: the continuing erosion of professional respect and autonomy in an era when the bureaucracies that employ them are growing in both size and scope; the insecurities occasioned by a decline in full-time, long-term employment and the rise of temporary, part-time, contracting, and other non-permanent work arrangements; and, lastly, the stress resulting from technologically driven changes in the nature of professional work and the increased need for professionals and other high skilled white collar people to train and retrain with little or no assistance from the employer community.

The Department for Professional Employees comprises 23 national and international AFL-CIO unions representing four million people employed in the professional, technical and administrative occupations. DPE was chartered by the AFL-CIO in 1977 to serve workers in these fast growing occupations.