Three major unions bolting the AFL-CIO, and others likely to follow, doesn't directly affect the rubber industry, but could have an impact in the future.
The big reason the Teamsters, Service Employees International Union and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union decided to jump ship is organizing, or rather, the lack of it. Labor has been on the wane for decadesùat its peak, long ago, 30 percent of the nation's private-sector workers were union members. Today it is less than 8 percent.
Globalization, which has taken as many as 3 million manufacturing jobs out of America since 2000, has hit the union movement hard. Organizing efforts haven't kept up.
What does it mean to the rubber industry? Several things.
The United Steelworkers, the labor group that represents most of North America's unionized rubber workers, is a member of the AFL-CIO. With 850,000 members after the recent merger of the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union with the United Steelworkers of America, the USW has a direct interest in the health of the AFL-CIO. If the umbrella organization loses members, dues and political clout, that will have a ripple effect on the Steelworkers.
If the "Change to Win Coalition" of the Teamsters, SEIU, UFCW and other unions and the AFL-CIO try to cannibalize each other, getting union locals to switch sides, an internal war could erupt that would weaken the already fragile labor movement.
No matter how that plays out, non-union rubber companies may be in for a spate of labor organizing activity.
The Steelworkers union, for example, might redouble its organizing efforts as a reaction to the labor group schism. PACE and the USWA on their own didn't shrink from protracted fights with companies, and it would be no surprise if the merged union pursued an aggressive organizing strategy.
And the Teamsters' waving of the organizing banner means the union's representatives can be expected to be handing out union organizing cards wherever they can. That very well could include rubber plants.