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Union Membership Continues Decline; Now At Lowest Level Since 1930s

Filed by KOSU News in Business.
January 23, 2013

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says union membership continues to decline in the United States.

In 2012, American Union membership rate dropped to 11.3 percent from 11.8 percent in 2011. As The Washington Post reports, that’s the lowest level since the 1930s.

The BLS says that in 1983, the first year comparable data was available, the union membership rate was at 20.1 percent.

The Post adds:

“Total membership fell by about 400,000 workers to 14.4 million. More than half the loss — about 234,000 — came from government workers including teachers, firefighters and public administrators.

“The losses add another blow to a labor movement already stretched thin by fighting efforts in states like Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan to curb bargaining rights and weaken union clout.

“But unions also saw losses in the private sector, even as the economy expanded modestly.”

In a statement, Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO aknowledged the decline saying the “sad truth” is that nowadays it is harder for the working class to have a “voice on the job.”

“Collective action through unions remains the single best way for working people to effect change,” Trumka went on. “But our still-struggling economy, weak laws and political as well as ideological assaults have taken a toll on union membership, and in the process have also imperiled economic security and good, middle class jobs.”

The Los Angeles Times reports that the drop in union membership comes at a critical time: Wal-Mart and other companies have begun talking about bringing manufacturing jobs back to the United States.

The Times continues:

“New manufacturing jobs in the United States usually are not unionized, and traditionally pay much less than traditional manufacturing jobs did. When Suarez Corp. Industries, for example, moved its manufacturing of space heaters from China to North Canton, Ohio, a company executive said employees would make $7.50 to $14 per hour. Former employees in the same facility, which made Hoover products until the plant moved to Mexico, made $20 an hour.”

[Copyright 2013 NPR]

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