The Great Recession which occurred in 2007-2009 period had a great impact on the financial markets of various countries across the world. This period was characterized by loss of wealth which affected consumer spending hence resulted in a decline in business investments. As businesses cut down production as a result of lower aggregate demand from consumers, massive job losses were experienced as many companies had to shed workers in large numbers thus increasing unemployment in the world. During this period, U.S. labor market lost 8.4 million jobs equivalent to 6.1% of all payroll employment. The trend reflected a great employment contraction which was double the one experienced in the deep recession in 1981 where the amount of job loss was 3.1%. The IMF and International Labour Organisation (2010) reported that that there was an unprecedented increase in the number of the unemployed between the year 2007 and 2009. This great recession demonstrated a sharp decline in public support for unions. If national unions, particularly the U.S. unions need to change then, they need to refocus their organizational strategies toward building transnational unionism. This should be triggered by the need to increase and maintain an equal economic rise. A greater labor movement is certainly viewed as a tool to help bring about stronger economies which are characterized by greater economic equality.
Before the financial collapse in 2008, public employees were more likely to embrace unionism than their counterparts in the private sectors, and these unions were meant to ensure better pay and benefits to workers in the unions. However, during the Great Recession period, these numbers tend to reduce significantly owing to a reduction in jobs and increase in laying off of workers. The total number of unionized workers fell from 12.4 percent in 2008 to 11.8 percent in 2010. This resulted in some protests experienced among the union bodies across sectors of education, training, and libraries. In the period between 2007 and 2009, several teacher’s strikes were witnessed as the educators demanded a favorable working condition that provided quality pay on their work. Some other strikes were also witnessed from autoworkers and transportation workers in 2009.
Public employees in education, training and libraries reported a pronounced decline in union membership from 3,259,000(38.7 percent) in 2008 to 3,067,000 (36.8 percent) in 2011 Carl (2013). However, similar losses were not experienced in other public employment during the same period as among the social service occupations the number of unionized workers increased from 16.3 percent in 2008 to 16.5 percent in 2011. These contrasting figures, therefore, clarify the disproportionate impact that politics of austerity had on the lives of educators.
In addition to the loss of jobs, the quality of employment became questionable as many workers across the world who did not lose their jobs were forced to accept reduced working hours as well as lower wages and benefits. The changes in wages have had a huge impact on the living standards of workers and their families Berberoglu (n.d.). Lost wages increases stress among workers and reduce their morale hence resulting to low productivity. Although the global economy recovered quickly, due to coordinated stimulus packages, unemployment still records high percentage. This increased job insecurity resulted in devastating impacts on individuals, families, households and their communities. The overall effects of these devastating impacts of Global Recession presented a slow progress in human and social development due to falling incomes owing to job losses and increased vulnerable employment among workers. The job loss during the recession period meant that family incomes have dropped, poverty has increased, and people have lost their health insurance. This was a negative experience to the families that had relied on employment as the only source of income in their lives.
The public policy which has been emphasized by the International Labour Organisation provides that ‘labour is not a commodity’ and therefore holds that it is equally important to enhance the use of collective bargaining and freedom of association in organizing employment Messenger & Ghosheh (2013). The most recent declaration of ILO emphasized the importance of freedom of expression and expanded it to include collective bargaining so that its basic principles. One of the principles is the ‘freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining.’ In response to the Great Recession, the ILO called for a Global Job Pact to make a decent labor while calling for resilient collective bargaining. The responses obtained for unions and collective bargaining provided that strengthened collective bargaining arrangements would facilitate negotiation of wage settlement, especially regarding low-paid workers and aim at sustaining real incomes and thus fostering consumer demands.The ILO assumes that unions can succeed if they continue to do what they always have done in the same manner they have always done it. This means that the need for unions to fight for the rights of the members is vital in ensuring job security and satisfaction among public employees.
The U.S. law has also addressed economic inequality and its connection with the protection of union movements as this is viewed to reduce the burden on economic efficiency. The experienced recession affected the union movements in their struggle to champion for employment opportunities for its members. The U.S. lawmakers develop laws that protected the rights of the union members which included the increase in minimum wages for union workers. For there to be increased work productivity, unions must struggle to ensure that favorable job security is provided to the workers and their pay and benefits are optimal now and in the future.
- Berberoglu, B. (n.d). The global capitalist crisis and its aftermath: The causes and consequences of the Great Recession of 2008-2009.
- E., V. H. (n.d.). Working scared (or not at all): The lost decade, great recession, and restoring the shattered American dream
- Messenger, J. C., & Ghosheh, N. (2013). Work sharing during the great recession: New developments and beyond Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing