Union membership hits new low

Union membership is continuing to shrink throughout the country, even as companies add jobs in one-time union strongholds such as Michigan.

Union membership fell to 11.3% of wage and salary workers last year, down from 11.8% the year before, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said today. In 1981, 20.1% of wage and salary workers were unionized.

The latest numbers, while not a surprise, are the result of both political maneuvering and corporate negotiations. Both Michigan and Indiana became right-to-work states over the last year, meaning unions cannot require members to pay dues as a condition of employment. In other states, such as Wisconsin, state governments reduced the power of public employee unions.

“This is part of this fight that we’ve been seeing where business and political allies of business are continuing to go after the rights of Americans to join unions,” said William Spriggs, chief economist of the AFL-CIO, after looking at the numbers.

The public sector is the last stronghold of the union movement, which may be why it is a target of conservative leaders eager to cut costs in budget negotiations. About 36% of the public sector is unionized, compared to 6.6% of the private sector.

Membership is much higher for older workers, another bad sign for the labor movement.

Only 10.7% of 25- to 34-year-old workers were unionized last year, compared to 15.4% of workers aged 45 to 54 and 16.4% of workers aged 55 to 64.

LA Times

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