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Americans face global competition

In a recent story on the recovery in U.S. manufacturing, Jim Tankersley of The Washington Post wrote flatly: "American factories are hiring, but they're not hiring union members."

The piece was headlined: "Manufacturing recovery leaves unions behind."

Ouch.

U.S. manufacturers have added about 500,000 new jobs since the end of 2009, but there were 4 percent fewer union factory workers in 2012 than there were in 2010.

"On balance," Tankersley wrote, "all of the job gains in manufacturing have been non-union."

Ouch again.

In 2012, there were 12.5 million non-union manufacturing workers in the United States - about the same as there were in 1977.

But there were 1.5 million union workers - 6 million fewer than in 1977.

Thirty years ago, one in three manufacturing workers was represented by a union. Last year, the figure was down to one in 10.

These figures represent painful changes for private-sector unions.

But reality will not be denied: To compete in the international marketplace, U.S. manufacturers have had to become cost conscious. Non-union workers make about 7 percent less than those represented by a union.

Apparently, many Americans are willing to take that discount in exchange for employment.

American companies have to compete on price to survive in a global economy. Apparently, many American workers understand that they do, too.

There was a time when, the rest of the world being in ruins, American industry and labor didn't have to worry much about competition.

The world isn't in ruins anymore.

If Americans adjust to the realities of today's competitive situation, their manufacturing sector won't be either.


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