The Union Membership Rate In The U.S. Fell Again Last Year

Invoice Pugliano through Getty Photographs

United Auto Employees members on a picket line final yr in Flint, Michigan.

The share of U.S. staff who belong to a labor union dropped from 10.5% to 10.3% in 2019, whilst public approval of unions reached its highest stage in years.

Simply 6.2% of staff within the personal sector have been union members final yr, a 0.2% drop in comparison with a yr earlier, in response to new information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The speed was primarily unchanged within the public sector, the place organized labor is far stronger and 33.6% of staff are union members.  

The numbers are per a decadeslong decline in union membership, now hovering close to an all-time low for the reason that Labor Division began formally monitoring the speed in 1983. One in 5 staff have been union members that yr, versus an estimated 1 in Three at labor’s peak within the 1950s.

The uncooked variety of union members stayed nearly the identical, however the rising labor drive meant that unions’ collective footprint within the U.S. economic system continued to shrink.

The AFL-CIO, a federation of 55 unions, mentioned in an announcement that the brand new statistics “don’t inform the entire story.” In 2019, staff flexed their muscle tissue with large strikes at Basic Motors and the grocery retailer chain Cease & Store, the federation famous, whereas labor notched legislative wins in locations like Nevada, the place public-sector staff can now discount collectively.

“The numbers mirror each the tremendously tough obstacles staff searching for to type a union proceed to face and the unequalled resilience of working individuals in our need to win bargaining energy on the job,” the federation mentioned.

Unions have complained for many years that it’s too straightforward for employers to quash organizing efforts by staff, with weak cures for breaking labor legislation. Certainly, many nonunion staff say they wish to be a part of a union if they may, and the general public notion of unions has been steadily bettering.

Polling by Gallup final yr discovered that union favorability had hit a 16-year excessive, after dipping considerably across the time of the Nice Recession. Of these polled, 64% mentioned they accredited of unions ― the very best price since 2003 and among the many highest up to now 50 years.

However unions face powerful headwinds in Washington and statehouses across the nation. An growing variety of states have handed “right-to-work” legal guidelines that forbid contracts requiring all the employees in a bargaining unit to pay union charges. That, in flip, has allowed staff to cease financially supporting unions that should proceed to signify them. A landmark Supreme Courtroom ruling in 2018 successfully made your complete U.S. public sector right-to-work.

The election of President Donald Trump has additionally made it tougher for some staff to unionize. Trump’s Republican appointments to the Nationwide Labor Relations Board have issued a number of rulings overturning earlier, union-friendly precedents. The board can also be pursuing a rule that might bar most graduate college students from becoming a member of unions, flipping a 2016 choice that deemed such college students union-eligible workers. 

Graduate applications have been fertile territory for unions in recent times (as have newsrooms similar to HuffPost’s, the place staffers are represented by the Writers Guild of America, East). However despite the fact that union membership amongst professionals elevated by 90,000 to six.27 million final yr, it fell barely as a share of the workforce. The AFL-CIO’s Division of Skilled Workers mentioned the figures confirmed alternatives for organizing in areas which have typically been ignored, like authorized providers, structure and engineering. 

Unions have been lobbying Congress to move laws that might develop organized labor’s ranks. The PRO Act would ramp up penalties for union-busting, make it simpler for unions to win first contracts, and would strengthen strike protections, amongst different main reforms. It’s more likely to move the Democratic-controlled Home however will go nowhere within the Senate beneath a GOP majority.

A latest report from the left-leaning Financial Coverage Institute famous that U.S. employers spend greater than $300 million on “union avoidance” consultants who specialise in undermining union campaigns. The identical report discovered that four in 10 union elections embody fees that the employer broke the legislation, typically by threatening or firing pro-union staff.

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