The hits just keep coming for labor unions.
First, they lost their recall effort in Wisconsin. Then, they lost their collective bargaining fight in Michigan, followed closely by the passage of Right to Work legislation. Now, new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that unions are continuing to lose influence with declining memberships across the country:
In 2012, the union membership rate--the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of a union--was 11.3 percent, down from 11.8 percent in 2011, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions, at 14.4 million, also declined over the year. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent, and there were 17.7 million union workers.
Here are a few more notable points from Wednesday's BLS data dump:
--"Public-sector workers had a union membership rate (35.9 percent) more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers (6.6 percent)."
--"Workers in education, training, and library occupations and in protective service occupations had the highest unionization rates, at 35.4 and 34.8 percent, respectively."
--"Black workers were more likely to be union members than were white, Asian, or
--"Among states, New York continued to have the highest union membership rate
(23.2 percent), and North Carolina again had the lowest rate (2.9 percent).
According to the New York Times, the share of the workforce in a union is at its lowest point in 97 years.
But while the influence of unions may be shrinking at the national level, it's absolutely booming in California.
"Reports of labor's death have been greatly exaggerated," says UC Berkeley's Harley Shaiken, a prominent labor academic & socialist activist. Speaking to the LA Times, Shaiken says that labor has built new alliances and is entering a new "proactive" phase. It would seem that way in California: while union membership across the country was down 400,000 in 2012, membership in the indebted state of California actually exploded by 100,000.