That piano is not playing itself just yet.... some Labor Day musings
Does that mean unions are dead? Certainly times are tough, but there are some ideas out there that might revitalize the role of unions in the economy. See the efforts by the Heartland Network based right here that is trying to leverage the capital controlled by workers pensions. That is a very different role of labor, but it may be the way of the future. Unions have been slow to organize in many big box retail operations, but there are signs that is changing (egads.. China is leading the way). and at the peak of the 1990's, I heard more than a few people start to talk about new guild-like professional unions for software programmers. I am a little less clear how feasible that would be, but it's not as improbable an idea as you would think.
Some people think, or used to think, that ever increasing productivity gains would marginalize the role of workers. In recent years there have indeed been some historic increases in labor force productivity. Yet, the idea that capital would displace workers in importance presupposes a lot of excess labor in the workforce. That seems unlikely to happen anytime soon. Vonnegut's vision of a dysfunctional superfluous workforce was in many ways a simplistic extrapolation of trends in the 1950's.