The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ annual report on union membership for 2018 has been officially released and the results are not good for labor unions.
The share of workers participating in unions declined to 10.5 percent, down from 10.7 percent in 2017. This translates to roughly 14.7 million active members. While this may appear to be a small decline, it is a continuation of a decades-long slide that has affected unions in almost every industry in the country.
The first year (1983) in which union membership data was collected also represents the historical high. That year, 20.1 percent of all workers belonged to a union; around 17.7 million Americans.
In spite of the national decline, Ohio’s union membership increased slightly, adding 4,000 workers. While many see this as a positive sign, the number of employed individuals decreased by 8,000, which is far more concerning for the Buckeye State. The study also noted that:
Over half of the 14.7 million union members in the U.S. lived in just seven states (California, 2.4 million; New York, 1.9 million; Illinois, 0.8 million; Pennsylvania, 0.7 million; and Michigan, Ohio, and Washington, 0.6 million each), though these states accounted for only about one-third of wage and salary employment nationally.
This may explain why states like Ohio will see small bumps like this, while national union involvement continues to decrease. However, several notable Supreme Court cases could have significant implications for the state unions.
The landmark court case Janus V. AFSCME, ruled on last year, made it illegal for unions to compel non-union employees to pay “agency fees,” overturning a 1977 decision that affirmed this right. The decision, despite being met with resounding condemnation by national unions, was celebrated by many workers.
In addition, the upcoming case Uradnik v. Inter Faculty Organization, “alleges that public-sector unions are suppressing the free speech of workers.” Recently, 21 groups led by the Buckeye Institute filed amicus briefs in support of the decision. Should the court rule against the labor unions, 2019’s union report could be dramatically different.
The Supreme Court is still considering if it will take up the case.
– – –