From 1969 til the mid 80's I belonged to the OCAW (Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers) During the 70's we were on strike 3 times (3 months in '74, 4 months in '76, 8 months in '79). In the middle of all of that 3 of my 4 kids were born. My dad, who had just retired from the construction trades union remarked how much money I was making in '77 when daughter #2 was born. I argued that things were better back in 1950 when I was born. My mother had kept every check stub my dad ever made, so we pulled out the stub from the week I was born in March, 1950. He was making $2.10 an hour working construction at the steel mill. Out of that, taxes (Fed, FICA, etc) took $6.00, leaving him $78 for the week. The doctor bill for my birth was $25 (Mom still had receipts), hospital bill was $25 and there was still enough left over to buy groceries for the week - all out of one check! After taxes, etc were taken out of my check, it would have taken every dime for 17 weeks to pay the doctor and hospital bills. (Thank God I had insurance). Things sure weren't better after 27 years.
People like to blame the Reagan years but union membership peaked in the late 50's, early 60's. From data I found on-line, union membership was at 31.4% of the work force in 1960. During the Kennedy/ Johnson years it dropped 4% to 27.4% in 1970. During the Nixon/Ford/Carter years it dropped 5.5% so that by 1980 it was 21.9%. During the Reagan years it dropped 5.8 % to 16.1% although AFL-CIO membership actually increased. It was the small independent unions that dropped membership during this time. During the Clinton years it dropped another 2.5% to 13.5% and finally during the younger Bush years it dropped 1.6% so that by 2010 only 11.9 % were unionized.
Of the 46 years I spent in the work force, exactly half was spent as a union member (retail clerk's union, construction trades, paper mill workers, oil/chemical/atomic workers, IBEW). Not all was a good experience, but for those who work for a company which produces a profit from their labor, I feel it is their right to join together to receive their fair share and withdraw their labor as a bargaining chip. For those who work in public service, it's OK to unionize for worker protection but I object to strikes which impact fellow citizens.
One thing is for sure. As a nation we need to develop new processes and industries which will provide a decent wage for our work force. We can't sell each other insurance and fry each other hamburgers forever.