On the menu: Unionizing a scattered workforce

Organizing workers into unions has never been easy, but these days, it's a very different challenge. Today's workforce is much more mobile, much less settled and not as likely to be working for the same employer for long periods. How do unions reach workers when they aren't staying put?

"The concept is that there’s a new class of worker, freelancers who go from project to project, day workers who shape up every morning in a Wal-mart parking lot, agricultural workers who work seasonally, taxi drivers have some of the burdens of ownership," said Doug Allen, a professor of labor relations at Penn State University. "There is a whole category [that doesn't stay] with one employer for any long time and doesn’t have the stable relationship that [once] defined the workplace."

"The labor movement has to look at a way to represent those workers," he said, pointing to the fast-food walk offs as an example.  "The labor movement is trying all different kinds of models, to see what works."

Allen, being a Penn State prof, couldn't resist making a plug for his school. He noted that Rich Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, the nation's largest labor federation, is a PSU grad.

You can read my story on Thursday's fast-food walk off in Wilmington here, my story on Labor Day article on labor's reliance on community partners here, my coverage of the Labor Day parade here, and here for Tuesday's blog post about the union behind the fast-food strikes.

Thursday: More on this topic.