Union Membership Down 10% — Except Gov’t

The Wall Street Journal notes that union membership was down 10% in the private sector last year, which is the same pace as job losses so this is to be expected. However, this is bad news for unions because they probably won’t get these members back when the jobs return:

Labor experts said theunion-membership losses would have a long-term impact on unions and their finances, because unions wouldn’t automatically regain members once the job market rebounded. In many cases, new jobs will be created at nonunion employers or plants. . . .

The manufacturing sector and construction industries—both of which tend to be heavily unionized—were hit particularly hard in the recession by the credit crisis and global downturn, which damped demand for industrial goods. Private sector construction lost 237,000 union members, while manufacturing lost 253,000 union members, representing more than half of the loss of private-sector union jobs.

But what job market actually expanded during the worst economic downturn in 70 years? Federal and state government (local governments didn’t fare quite so well). Part of that ballooning deficit went to paying for new government workers and more of them are union that ever before. Which is why, for the first time, a majority of union members are government workers rather than private-sector employees.

By examining data provided by the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, we see that in the last year local governments lost 342,000 jobs. But state governments added 118,000 and the federal government added 52,000 jobs. In spite of the huge loss for local governments (the public sector lost 172,000 jobs as a whole), union membership among government workers rose by 64,000 workers. As of the end of 2009, 37.4 percent of all government workers now belong to a union.

Let’s repeat for emphasis: 37.4 percent of all government workers now belong to a union. In addition, 41.1 percent of all government workers are represented by unions.

The unionization of our government is a worrisome trend, whether at the federal, state, or local level. Last year unions gained in all three sectors. As a result, jobs are protected in a down economy, and the taxpayer must continue to pay excessive salaries that stem from collective bargaining (not to mention the padded pension plans).

Civil service bureaucracy is bad enough. Through a union into the mix and the taxpayer is worse off than ever.

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Posted January 26th, 2010 Filed in Government, Unions and Labor