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The share of American workers in labor unions fell to a record low last year, according to a January 22, 2020 announcement from the U.S. Department of Labor.  The number of union members fell by 170,000 in 2019, reducing the share of the workforce in labor unions to 10.3%, the lowest portion on record since the data has been kept in the present format since 1983.  In 2018, unions represented about 10.5% of American workers, including both the public and the private sectors.  Union membership in the private sector also fell, from 6.4% to 6.2% in 2018, also a record low.  In 1983, the first year of comparable government data, union membership in the private sector was over 20%.  The declines in union membership are said to reflect both the decline of organized labor, and also the reduction in employment in more unionized industries.    

As a matter of fact, union membership has been on a steady decline each year over the past 36 years, with only a single year where union membership made gains during a time the economy was shedding jobs.

It is interesting that more than half of all union members in the U.S. live in just seven states.  New York workers have the highest union membership right after Hawaii, about 21%.  It is further interesting that Michigan had a larger drop in union membership than the U.S. as a whole, with its union membership falling by a percentage point during 2019.  This is the same state where there was a contentious and lengthy strike at General Motors last year. 

Wimberly, Lawson, Steckel, Schneider & Stine

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