We noted in an earlier blog entry (January 12, 2011) that employment discrimination claims have reached an all-time high and continue to grow (according to the EEOC). A new report put out by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that union membership is at an all-time low and continues to decline (at least it is the lowest in the 27 years that such statistics have been kept).
Is there a connection between these two trends? And what does the decline in union membership augur for employment discrimination claims, if anything ?
We have seen no commentary suggesting a connection. But it occurs to us that with the decline in collective bargaining and the diminishing role of unions, individual employees are freed from any restraint in filing discrimination claims. One management attorney was quoted recently as saying that younger workers, where the decline in union membership is most significant, are more inclined to believe in individual rights, and feel more mobile. Could be. But we also know that they are also more inclined to exercise these individual rights by more freely filing claims of discrimination when, for example, they are terminated in a down economy or excessed when the employer has too rapidly grown the workforce.
Another commentator has stated that the realization by employers that a workplace that is cohesive rather than divisive may contribute to a lack of desire by employees to join a union. Again — could be. However, in that case we might have expected that claims of discrimination would have fallen, and not risen at an unprecedented rate.
We await further statistics and studies which might enlighten us. In the meantime, whatever the reason for this decline, employers should be ever more vigilant in maintaining a discrimation-free, zero-tolerance workplace.