[Excerpt] Confronted by declining membership and market share as well as an erosion of bargaining strength and political influence, a sense of crisis now pervades many international unions. Some labor unions continue to adhere to programs and practices they have pursued for several decades. But others, faced with challenges so fundamental that their viability is at stake, have chosen to reexamine their basic policies and performance and to reorient their essential course.
This paper evaluates the experience of four such international unions, all of which have recently embarked on strategic planning initiatives. Three of the unions – the Electrical Workers (IBEW), Carpenters (UBC), and Painters (IBPAT) – operate primarily in the private sector, representing workers in the construction industry but serving significant branches in other industrial sectors as well. The fourth is a large public –sector union, the Government Employees (AFGE). The membership rolls range from about 100,000 members to more than 700,000 members.