American Union Workers Decline


The American union workers fell to a record low in 2019, continuing a post-WWII slide that began 50 years ago and is continuing a future decline. The Bureau of Labor reported that the number of unionized workers slipped from 14.74 in 2018 to 14.57 million in 2019. This report of workers belonging to unions dropped to a new post-World War II low from 10.5% to 10.3%. In 1983, there was 17.7 million union membership, representing approximately 20 percent of all wage and salary workers. 

Nearly 7.1 million of all union employees work in government.  A great percentage work in the area of education as well as public safety jobs including government agencies, firefighting, law enforcement, and code enforcement (ICE, CIA, and FBI).

Labor unions in the United States are organizations that represent workers in many industries recognized under U.S. labor law. Their activity include centers on collective bargaining over wages, benefits, and working conditions for their membership, and representing their members in disputes with management over violations of contract provisions. Many of the larger trade unions also typically engage in federal lobbying activities and electioneering at the state and federal level.

Unions, especially in regions where select industries are strong, help boost the wages and benefits of all workers. They establish pay, employment, and benefit standards that many non-traditional and non-union firms adopt. This union boost to nonunion pay has weakened as the share of private-sector workers in a union has fallen from 1 in 3 workers in the 1950s to about 1 in 20 today.

States like Wisconsin has made it easier for government workers to opt out of unions.  Unions are strongest in the Midwest, Northeast and Pacific Northwest. They are weakest in the South and Southwest.  At the same time, a modest rebound in manufacturing since the end of the 2007-2009 recession has boosted employment in heavily unionized sectors like light-manufacturing, steel production, and automaking.

According to a media report from Breitbart, a 25-year union worker with Ford Motor Company says President Donald Trump is “the only person defending” American auto workers while 2020 Democrats propose an environmental agenda that will “destroy union jobs” for the middle class. In an article for the Detroit News, United Auto Worker (UAW) member and Ford employee Melinda Rowe called out 2020 Democrats for their “zero-carbon” agenda that will further decimate the United States’ auto industry in states like Ohio and Michigan.

Democrats continue to support and be endorsed by many union programs. In DeKalb County, candidate for the 70th State of Illinois House of Representatives Paul Stoddard has been endorsed by the State of Illinois ALF-CIO. Unions continue to work with businesses to identify what the skills needs of the future are, and they hope to help employers create and deliver the necessary reskilling programs to ensure workers keep their jobs in the future.

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