Wall Street Journal: Marick Masters on U.S. union membership hitting record low

The share of American workers in labor unions fell to a fresh record low last year, despite an uptick in the ranks of unionized state-government employees. The number of union members fell by 170,000 in 2019—a year when U.S. employers added more than 2.1 million jobs—reducing the share of the workforce in labor unions to 10.3%, the lowest portion on record since 1983, the Labor Department said Wednesday. Overall union membership rates have trended at record lows for a decade. “The big picture presents the now familiar story of a gradual decline in unions across most industries,” said Marick Masters, a business professor at Wayne State University who studies labor unions. A June 2018 Supreme Court decision banned provisions in union contracts requiring union-represented government workers to either join the union or pay a fee. The ruling effectively instituted right-to-work rules for public-sector workers in nearly two dozen states that didn’t have such laws, which allow workers to opt out of paying union dues. “Unions were prepared for that and have been taking steps to mitigate the adverse effects,” said Masters. He said state-government unions increased outreach to members to make clear the representation they receive in exchange for dues.”

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