Union membership in Washington State and the U.S. has fallen yet another year, continuing a trend now spanning several decades. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, membership rates in 2011 fell to 11.8% of the American work force. That figure was down slightly from 11.9% in 2010, despite the fact that total union membership rose slightly by 49,000 workers last year (membership now stands at 14.76 million). The overall membership rate declined because the uptick in organized labor’s ranks failed to keep pace with an overall growth in employment.
The bureau announced these figures as American labor unions came under increasing political attack. Republican governors and Republican-controlled legislatures in Wisconsin and elsewhere have moved to diminish public employees’ rights to collective bargaining. More recently, Indiana is moving to become the first state in over a decade to implement a “right to work” law, which bars employers and unions from entering into contracts that require workers to pay fees for union representation.
According to the BLS, unions currently represent 16.3 million workers, some 1.5 million more than the total membership, suggesting that many workers choose to refrain from joining the unions that represent them in their place of work.
The percentage of public sector workers in unions stood at 37% last year, more than five times higher than the 6.9% membership rate for private sector employees. By comparison, more than 35% of private sector workers belonged to unions in the 1950s.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics claims that the total number of private sector employees in unions rose by 110,000 to 7.2 million, aided by a partial recovery in manufacturing and construction sectors. Yet as an increasing number of states, cities and school districts lay off workers, the number of public sector employees in unions fell 61,000, to 7.56 million.
The Labor Department reported that the highest union rates were in New York State, where 24.1% of workers are members; this is followed by Alaska (22.1%) and Hawaii (21.5%). North Carolina currently has the lowest rate at a mere 2.9%, followed by South Carolina (3.4%) and Georgia (3.9%).
If you are in need of a Washington Employment Attorney, Workers Compensation Lawyer, or need experienced counsel for any part of your L&I Claim, contact Emery Reddy for help with your case. Our team can also provide confidential legal advice and representation to workers who have been ordered to complete an independent medical examination for a workplace injury.