NOTE: This is a rerun of an earlier broadcast, first published in this area on Aug. 22.
Unions and the union movement have been in decline for more than 30 years. The departure of domestic manufacturing, technological innovations, complacent unions and a less-than-friendly political landscape have all contributed to a shrinking of union membership in California and the nation. In 1983, for example, more than 20 percent of the work force was unionized. Now, it's just over 12 percent.
A recent upsurge in organizing energy has put a spring in the union movement's step. But the tough economy, mass layoffs and high unemployment have thrown a curve ball into this situation. Will unions in Merced and the nation take advantage of a disenchanted working class, the under and unemployed, or will this economy be one more blow to an already shrunken movement?
To find out how these forces are playing out in Merced County, "Off The 99" brought to the studio three guests familiar with the state of working Mercedians and their unions. We sat down with Alex Whalley, a professor at UC Merced, Harriet Lawlor with the Merced Central Labor Council and Henry Idlefonzo with SEIU at Golden Valley Health Center.