Posted by Matthew Rothschild on January 24, 2013

The latest numbers are out on the unionization rate in America, and for anyone who believes in workers’ rights, these numbers are horrifying.

The percentage of workers in unions last year dropped to 11.3 percent, down 43 percent in 20 years to the lowest level in almost a century.

In the private sector, the rate fell to 6.6 percent, and in the public sector it dropped to 35.9 percent.

When you look at that last number, it’s obvious why Republicans have been going after public sector unions. That’s labor’s last stronghold.

But it’s under siege.

Scott Walker shoved it to public sector workers in 2011, which resulted in a 25% drop in unionized public employees in Wisconsin last year.

In Indiana, where a so-called right to work law took effect last year, overall unionization fell 18 percent.

And since Michigan just passed a similar law, you can expect the rate to fall off the table there, too.

As the labor activist and writer Bill Fletcher has observed in his excellent new book, " ‘They're Bankrupting Us!’ And 20 Other Myths about Unions,” what we’re seeing now is “the final offensive” against organized labor in America.

Corporations have always hated unions. That’s why they bumped off labor organizers a century ago, and why they illegally fire them to this day.

But they’ve found an easier method now: Purchase state legislators, who then obligingly pass laws making union organizing all but impossible.

To respond to this final offensive, Fletcher says, in an article in the upcoming March issue of The Progressive, organized labor must broaden its focus and act not merely as an agent for its own members but as the leader of a broad-based social movement that is intent on helping working people everywhere.

As Fletcher says, “Time is of the essence.”

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story “Obama in the Shadow of Martin Luther King."

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