Unions continue to fade

After four years of relative stability, union membership resumed its decline in 2016, with overall and private sector membership at record lows, and public sector membership continuing to tumble. The glum story is told by the graph below.

Stats released Thursday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that 10.7% of wage and salary workers were union members in 2016, down 0.4 point from 2015. Union density (the term of art) fell 0.3 point to 6.4% in the private sector, and 0.8 in the public, to 34.4%.

Overall density is the lowest ever, as is private sector density, which is less than half its 1930 level, before the great organizing drives of that decade got going. And thanks to the likes of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, public sector density, down four of the last five years, is back to where it was almost 40 years ago.

Perhaps I’m old-fashioned, but I find it hard to imagine a better society without better unions to help lead the way. With AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka and a bunch of union presidents genuflecting towards Donald Trump, even as a federal assault on organized labor in the coming years looks inevitable, it looks like they’re helping legitimate a far worse one.


sources: 1930–1999, Barry T. Hirsch and David A. Macpherson; 2000–2016, BLS

One Comment on “Unions continue to fade

  1. I read that private sector union density is down to about where it was in 1909, which is just depressing – and even more so when you remember that it’s unevenly spread, with a small handful of states skewing it upwards while private-sector unionization is nearly non-existent in most states.

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