11/23/2020

As Trump takes aim at unions, labor’s clout sags in California

Labor unions have been among the most vocal critics of Donald Trump and his expanding team of economic advisers, sounding warnings over the president-elect’s positions on a range of issues and promising to stymie his policy agenda when warranted.

Those comments, however, come as federal data indicate that the influence of labor unions — at least when it comes to membership — is waning. A recent analysis by the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that union membership as a percentage of the entire labor force declined in 24 states in 2015 compared to the year before, while some 34 states and the District of Columbia were down from where they were a decade earlier.

States with some of the largest declines were concentrated in the U.S. Rust Belt. Wisconsin’s union membership as a percentage of its total labor force dropped 7.8 percentage points over the past decade, from 16.1 percent in 2005 to 8.3 percent in 2015. It was a period that saw Gov. Scott Walker beat back rules around labor organizing and membership dues. Similar efforts in Indiana resulted in a 2.4 percentage-point slide, while Ohio (down 3.7 percentage points) and Michigan (5.3 percentage points) also ranked among the largest decliners.

Union membership in California fell by .6 percent over the last 10 years, falling to 15.9 percent in 2015 from 16.5 percent in 2005.

New York, the state with the largest ratio of union members as a percentage of its total workforce (24.7 percent), reported a 1.4 percentage point decline over the same decade. At 2.1 percent, South Carolina’s ratio of union membership ranked as the country’s lowest, having dropped by 0.2 percentage points between 2005 and 2015.

The longer-term trend is even gloomier for labor unions. Membership as a percentage of the entire U.S. labor force fell to 11.1 percent in 2015 versus 20.1 percent in 1983. In total, the United States had 14.8 million union members in 2015, down 17 percent from 1983. At the same time, the total number of wage and salary workers in the U.S. increased 54 percent to 133.7 million people, according to BLS.

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