I should declare a vested interest in that twice in my life I have belonged to a union, and also a couple of times in the last few years members of my immediate family have spoken to union officials in regard to conditions a their workplace.
It is these latter encounters that gives me pause to stop and think. If you are having trouble at work, if you need to talk t managment, if there is more than one of you in the same boat, why wouldn't you organise to try and do it together. Surely that, at its most primitive,is what a union does. It acts in common cause for those who might otherwise find it difficult to act for themselves.
Indeed it would seem a good balance and check in a complex industrial system.
When I was a board member of the Church's mission to industry ITIM. Managers, workers and unionists sat alongside each other in a most constructive way developing workplace support and chaplaincy programs. It was during this time that the role of unions began to diminish. They simply had (as the BCP says) "no power of themselves to help themselves".
I personally think that industrial conditions became so laid back that paying $300-$500 a year or more for the privilege of belonging to a union when the government (Labor) was going to deliver any way encouraged many people to drop out.
When a less sympathetic government came the movement had been gutted of its members.
This is a simplistic analysis of course.
But what people seem to fear in Australia today is not the 'union bosses' (who are they for heaven's sake). But the fact is that when they have to argue the case there will be no one to do it. A valuable check has gone.