Yesterday, Coca-Cola workers in Fort Worth rejected an offer to unionize at their bottling plant.
In that respect, the fact that the vote failed may be less surprising than the fact it made it that far in the first place. (The Star-Telegram notes that the vote represented the second attempt to join the Teamsters in as many years.)
As a “right to work” state, Texas has a low amount of union activity. And like most states around the country, the strongest unionization occurs in the public sector – making the scene in Fort Worth all the more surprising.
“I always tell people we don’t have unions in the Unites States,” says Dan Hamermesh, professor of economics at the University of Texas at Austin. “And in the private sector nationwide, we don’t. Eight percent are unionized nationwide. In Texas it’s way below that … but my guess is four percent in the private sector here in Texas. So it’s a very non-union state.”
“The story in Fort Worth is sort of interesting, because had it passed, had they succeeded it would be a real breakthrough,” Hamermesh says. “But I wouldn’t expect many such stories to happen.”
Hamermesh attributes dwindling private sector unionization to several factors, including the decline of heavily unionized industries like manufacturing, and the rise of globalization. And he also notes, somewhat counterintuitively, that in worse financial times, workers are less likely to unionize.
“People are afraid of losing their jobs,” Hamermesh says. “So if things do get a lot better, as I expect they will in the next few years, you might see more impetus for this kind of organization. But it’s never going to be a biggie in Texas, not in either of our lifetimes.”