The Real Reason Unions Are Dying

photo illustration of picketers holding signs
photo illustration of picketers holding signs

The country's GDP has been growing at a nice clip forever (give or take a recession or two). But in the past three decades, workers have been getting a smaller share of the pie. Many economists blame technology, saying it enables companies to increase productivity and supercharge profits, without giving workers an equivalent salary bump. But according to a new study, the real culprit is the decline of unions.

The study, published in the June issue of the American Sociological Review, looked at workers' share of GDP over time and found that the biggest drop occurred in industries where unions' influence has dramatically waned. When workers lost power, their share of the profits fell, according to the analysis by Tali Kristal, a sociology and anthropology lecturer at the University of Haifa, Israel.

Since the late 1970s, American workers' share, in the form of salaries, declined 6 percent overall. See the graph below: "Labor's share" refers to both employees and the self-employed.