The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its annual report on union membership last week and the news was somewhat bleak for pro-union forces. Though the economy added almost 2.4 million jobs in 2012, union membership dropped by almost 400,000. Now, several recent appointments by President Obama to the National Labor Relations Board have been struck down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Much of the downturn in union membership can be attributed to the number of states that have right-to-work laws. Michigan is on the threshold of becoming the 24th state with a right-to-work law, which would prohibit requiring workers to join a union or pay fees that are equivalent to union dues as a condition of employment.
States with such laws include: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming.
A brief overview of the latest report on labor unions from the U.S. Department of Labor reveals:
- Since 2008, private sector unions have lost more than 1.2 million members – almost equivalent to losing the entire rank-and-file of the Teamsters.
- All of the government jobs lost since 2008 were added in the three-year period 2005-2008.
- Almost half of all union members work in just seven states – California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Jersey and Ohio – though these states employ only about one-third of the U.S. workforce.
- Union membership increased in 14 states and the District of Columbia. Of these, only five added more than 10,000 members (California, Georgia, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Texas).
- Local government (teachers, police officers, firefighters, et al.) is by far the most unionized sector of the American workforce.
- Members of the two national teachers’ unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, comprise more than 25% of all union members in the United States, and just under half of all public sector union members.
- About 42% of U.S. workers are 45 years of age or older. Almost 52% of union members are.
- If unions were able to organize all the workers at Wal-Mart, by far America’s largest employer, it would only raise their share of the private sector workforce to 8.5% – less than the share they had in 2002.
- If the trends recorded since 2000 continue, by 2051 there will be 8 million union members in the United States – 6.6% of the total workforce – and they will all work for the government.
- Five million of them will be teachers.
The recent ruling by the courts concerning the President’s appointments to the National Labor Relations Board is yet another roadblock before what was once an unstoppable force. The ruling came as a result of a brief filed for four workers who are receiving free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys in cases pending before the Board.
Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation, issued the following statement in light of the court’s decision:
“The court’s decision in Noel Canning is a victory for independent-minded workers who have received unjust treatment at the hands of the pro-Big Labor NLRB and will hopefully serve as a persuasive example to other federal courts deciding on the validity of Obama’s purported recess appointments.”