Center for Union Facts: Continued Drop in Union Membership Levels Shows that Organized Labor is No Longer Serving its Members’ Needs
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that over the past year, nationwide union membership decreased by roughly 400,000 workers and dropped from 11.8 to 11.3 percent of the workforce.
These precipitous losses raise serious questions about the health of the labor movement in America—and beg the question of why unions are losing their influence in American public life.
“The continued decline of union membership, even during four years of a labor-friendly administration, is a sign that organized labor is no longer serving the best interests of its members,” said Richard Berman, executive director of the Center for Union Facts.
These latest numbers follow on the heels of decades of declines in union membership. Private sector membership is now at a 70-year low, and union membership as a percentage of the workforce has tumbled from 28 percent in 1954 to its current level.
Additionally, the public’s support for organized labor has dropped to 52 percent—a nearly 15 percent drop in just ten years.
Union leaders have failed to recognize the role that they have played in labor’s loss of power. Instances like Hostess—where the union’s demand that its members continue striking ended up costing thousands of union jobs—show that union officials and union members are often at odds with each other. And considering that union salary and benefits demands have bankrupted both companies and city and state governments, union officials should explain why their mismanagement has adversely affected not only their members’ lives, but also the lives of the general public.
“Union leaders have not only cost their members’ their own jobs, such as at Hostess, but they have also hurt individual Americans through their irresponsible strikes and reckless demands over the past year,” said Berman. “Considering all that the labor movement has accomplished for workers in its long history, it is troubling that it has not been able to find a responsible mission for the twenty-first century.”
“If union officials want to reverse this trend and re-assert their dedication to justice in the workplace, then they should pursue meaningful reform to protect their members,” said Berman. “Some of the reforms that would accomplish this goal include the secret ballot, the criminalization of threats of union violence, and mandatory prior approval by employees for the use of their dues for political purposes.”
Berman concluded: “Unless unions start to give their members a reason to stay, or unless they can convince new members to join their ranks, then organized labor in America will only continue its slow decline into irrelevancy.”
The Center for Union Facts is a non-profit organization supported by foundations, businesses, union members, and the general public. We are dedicated to showing Americans the facts about today’s union leadership.