Does the Future of Union Organizing Involve a Few Mega-Unions?

I’m watching college football while writing this blog post. College football fans know that football conferences have undergone changes over the past few years. For example, the Big Ten Conference now has 14 schools; the Big Twelve only has 10 schools; the Pac 10 recently became the Pac 12; and the Big East has schools from Illinois, Wisconsin, and Nebraska.

So how does this relate to unions? AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka recently said his union is working with other unions to organize industry sectors, i.e. transportation, building trades, professional employees, etc. instead of individual unions targeting single employers. According to Trumka, labor’s collective effort is necessary to counter “deep pocket supports of conservative causes.” This is an odd statement considering unions accounted for 10 of the top 50 political donors in the 2016 election. Those 10 unions donated well over $200 million to non-conservative candidates, parties, and causes.

I am skeptical of this new organizing strategy but am curious to see how it plays out. Unions will work together in the beginning, I imagine. But at some point territorial boundaries will erode their good will. After all, the UAW represents casino card dealers, and the Steelworkers represent nurses. Under Trumka’s Utopian organizing plan, will Teamsters sit idly by and watch (or help) the Machinists union continue to try to organize Uber drivers? I don’t think so.

Matt Austin owns Austin Legal, LLC, a boutique law firm based in Ohio that limits its representation to employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. You can reach Matt by calling him at (614) 285-5342 or emailing him at