On Monday, August 21, there was a total eclipse of the sun. Americans across the nation from Oregon to South Carolina responded with awe and euphoria at the wonder of this spectacular event.
Just two weeks later on this upcoming Monday, September 4, Americans across this nation will celebrate Labor Day. There will be little to no celebration in the organized labor movement, however, as the eclipse of its power and influence continues.
That eclipse is not total. But, it is getting increasingly larger and fuller. There is evidence and indicators that, unlike the eclipse of the sun in the solar system which was temporary, this eclipse is permanent and the sun will not come out tomorrow for the organized labor movement.
This perspective is supported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics release at the beginning of this year which reported that the union membership rate for 2016 was 10.7 percent, down 0.4 percent from 2015. That decline represented a loss of 240,000 wage and salary workers from 2015.
The total number of union workers in 2016 was 14.6 million compared to 17.7 million representing 20.1 percent of the workforce in 1983, the first year for which comparable data is available.
Highlights from the 2016 data include:
- The union membership rate (34.4%) for pubic sector workers was more than five times higher than the private sector rate (6.4%)
- The highest rates for union membership by occupation were in the education, training and library occupations (34.6%) and protective service occupations (34.5%)
- By state, New York had the highest union membership rate (23.6%) and South Carolina had the lowest (1.6%)
That’s the picture for organized labor writ large and it is a relatively gloomy one. There are a number of factors that make it look even gloomier