Thursday, February 11, 2010

Union Membership: Good News, Bad News

Good News: Union membership as a percent of all U.S. workers is close to an all-time low of 12.3% in 2009, down slightly from 12.4% in 2008, but higher than the 12% share in 2006 and 12.1% share in 2007 (see chart above). In the early 1950s, almost one of three American workers belonged to a union, compared to only about one of eight workers today who are union members.

Bad News: There are now more public sector union members than private sector union members, for the first time ever (see chart below). Public sector union membership has increased in six out of the last nine years, and is higher today by 781,000 government employees compared to 2000. Over the same period, private sector union membership has declined by 1,788,000 workers, bringing down the overall share of union members since 2000. But the 11% increase in public sector union members since 2000 and the upward trend over the last decade is a cause for serious concern.


20 Comments:

At 2/11/2010 9:50 PM, Blogger Webutante said...

And that cause for serious concern, other than it means even greater growth of big government? Allow me to put words in your mouth: the concern is that us ordinary taxpayers will be footing the bill for their retirement plans, increasing demands for grander benefits including medical. And there will be no end to their takeover of our pocketbooks.

 
At 2/11/2010 9:51 PM, Anonymous richard said...

There might be a bright side to that statistic, particularly as it relates to the federal govt. Paralyzing the federal govt. with a union strike might not be all bad.

 
At 2/11/2010 10:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When you include tenured faculty, the 'union' membership is even higher--they don't have to have a union to be protected.

Nice if you can get it.

Are you out there arguing for the elimination of tenure?

 
At 2/11/2010 10:26 PM, Blogger Mark J. Perry said...

Yes, I think tenure should be abolished.

 
At 2/11/2010 11:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good, I agree.

Performanced based education make sense, and I respect your consistency.

 
At 2/11/2010 11:48 PM, Blogger sethstorm said...


There might be a bright side to that statistic, particularly as it relates to the federal govt. Paralyzing the federal govt. with a union strike might not be all bad.

That's an interesting thought exercise. The problem is that it triggers a natural response to strangle the unions, see PATCO.

It's only good news if and only if you want to see them gone (and wish for another PATCO-scale event). The bad news to that is the unintended consequences of business being able to overplay their hand (a la Wall Street). They have no real incentive to treat workers with any respect.

What happened between 1975 and 1985 that caused a faster drop? Other than that, it seems that it is a natural decline and/or lightly assisted by hired-gun labor firms & economic conditions. Then something in 1985 seemed to bring it back into a pattern of natural decline.

Had it followed the other path(as if the large drop never happened), it'd be closer to 18-22%.

 
At 2/12/2010 2:39 AM, Blogger Craig Dennis said...

Please don't preach the lie that business has NO reason to treat their workers with any respect. This is just nonsense.

The bargaining ability of workers, not to mention their ability to freely associate is not affected by the decline of the ugly, bastardized, and immoral groups that call themselves national labor unions. There will still be bargaining, and still some level of group negotiation. Businesses more than ever have to treat their employees well because portability of employment and transit costs have become so low a percentage of our expenditures that one can easily afford to change employers (especially in better times, but this still is somewhat true now).

You don't need the AFL-CIO or the Teamsters to negotiate. That crap they spew that they "brought us the weekend" will be a great lie to watch die along with them.

 
At 2/12/2010 7:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What Craig said.

 
At 2/12/2010 7:27 AM, Anonymous geoih said...

Unionized government 'work' is the new dole.

 
At 2/12/2010 7:43 AM, Anonymous CrisisMaven said...

And it's these public sector employees who will eventually hold the governments hostage, just as in Greece, so they cannot reduce debt but have to go bankrupt (however, they were reform-resistant for a hundred years, so it's just as well).

 
At 2/12/2010 10:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think public employee unions are the primary cause of excessive spending on pretty much everything they are associated with and also poor performance on the part of many of their members. Elected officials are going to have to get tough, or at least real, with public employee unions in order to get budgets in alignment with the new reality (CA is the worst example, but there are other domestic and international examples).

Disclosure: I am not a public employee, but I pay a lot of taxes to support those who are.

 
At 2/12/2010 11:45 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"The problem is that it triggers a natural response to strangle the unions, see PATCO"...

So what are you saying sethstorm? That the 'no strike clause' in the PATCO contract should've been voided by the members whenever they thought it was O.K. to do so?

Joe Weisenthal at Business Insider noted: And so the trend will keep feeding on itself, as the union-controlled government will never do anything but continue adding to its payrolls

 
At 2/12/2010 11:57 AM, Anonymous gettingrational said...

Mon., 2-15-10 there will be a citizens rally in WA state's capitol. The Olympia rally will protest the legislature's overturning a two year old voter approved edict that taxes cannot be raised without a 2/3 vote by the legislator. The legislature is overwhelmingly Dems.

The legislature wants to raise taxes to stop cuts in spending.

Who are the people rallying to support the legislature this Sat.? It will be union members and their families!

The two opposing rallies sum up the fight: citizens v. state unions.

 
At 2/12/2010 2:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there any public policy rationale for allowing government workers to unionize?

 
At 2/12/2010 3:44 PM, Blogger juandos said...

From John Stossel's Fox Business blog: Forced Unionization

Michelle Berry runs a day-care business out of her home in Flint, MI. She thought that she owned her own business, but Berry's been told she is now a government employee and union member. It's not voluntary. Suddenly, Berry and 40,000 other Michigan private day-care providers have learned that union dues are being taken out of the child-care subsidies the state sends them. The "union" is a creation of AFSCME, the government workers union, and the United Auto Workers. (there's a bit more)

 
At 2/12/2010 5:54 PM, Blogger QT said...

sethstorm,

how do you explain the decline of union membership without considering that perhaps, the customer (ie. the worker) does not consider the services offered to be worth the money?

 
At 2/13/2010 9:27 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

QT,

Many workers attempting to organize a union are fired. It usually takes over two years for a NLRB case to be heard. The penalty for an illegal discharge if and when found guilty? The employer must pay back wages minus any unemployment or other wages the employee received since the discharge. That creates a huge incentive for the employer to violate the law.

I believe everyone should have a legal right to join or not join a union. Even those who oppose unions have no problem accepting tenure or signed contracts that protect them from being an "at will" employee. I will agree, though, the only true job security comes from everyone working together keeping the company profitable and viable.

 
At 2/13/2010 11:53 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"I believe everyone should have a legal right to join or not join a union. Even those who oppose unions have no problem accepting tenure or signed contracts that protect them from being an "at will" employee"...

Hey Walt G, so you wouldn't be opposed to open shop workplaces?

 
At 2/13/2010 12:14 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

You are trying to get me in trouble, but I meant what I said.

The Beck law allows workers in closed-shop states to elect out of about 25% of their dues that goes to non-representation activities--few do. Along the same line, I believe most free market economists don’t opt out of tenure either. I also don't think workers in states with open shops should get the benefits that their counterparts that paid union dues receive automatically.

The NLRA needs to be updated to reflect a world economy. As it is, it is old and much too contentious for the 21st century.

 
At 2/13/2010 12:31 PM, Blogger juandos said...

Walt G says: "You are trying to get me in trouble, but I meant what I said"...

Me?!?!...:-)

No, I was just curious and I'm not actually arguing your previous posting which I agree with mostly due to personal experience as a one time shop steward...

"I also don't think workers in states with open shops should get the benefits that their counterparts that paid union dues receive automatically"...

Again we're singing out of the same hymnal Walt G...

The workers should actually work for what they want and not leech off the actions of others...

"The NLRA needs to be updated to reflect a world economy. As it is, it is old and much too contentious for the 21st century"...

Amen Walt G!

 

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