Economy
11:50 am
Thu January 24, 2013

New data show sharp decline in state union membership

Michigan unions lost nearly 42,000 members over the course of 2012, representing about 10 percent of the nationwide decline in total membership.

The data come from a Bureau of Labor Statistics report that shows the percentage of American workers in unions dipped to its lowest rate in more than 70 years.

David Shepardson of The Detroit News has more:

In Michigan, union membership fell more sharply than the national average; It was down to 16.6 percent in 2012, compared with 17.5 percent in 2011. Michigan lost 42,000 union workers, falling to 629,000 in 2012.

The number of workers in Michigan represented by a union — but who were not members of that union — fell from 18.3 percent to 17.1 percent, or by 55,000 workers. By contrast, in 1970 Michigan had 1.2 million union workers representing 40 percent of the state's workforce.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said the new figures were sobering.

"Working women and men urgently need a voice on the job today, but the sad truth is that it has become more difficult for them to have one, as today's figures on union membership demonstrate," Trumka said. "Union membership impacts every other economic outcome that matters to all workers — falling wages, rising health care costs, home foreclosures, the loss of manufacturing jobs and disappearing retirement benefits."

The 400,000 drop in membership comes despite a 2.4 million increase in overall U.S. employment last year, the New York Times reports.

Michigan passed a controversial “right-to-work” law in December that will outlaw mandatory union dues for workers.

The law will take effect in March, but will not impact preexisting contracts.

- Jordan Wyant, Michigan Radio Newsroom