Labor unions, the spending, and declining memberships
US labor unions are up against the wall with a steady decline in membership are now faced with the additional challenge of having to spend millions to fight Republican-backed, anti-union efforts. Although they remain politically powerful, having helped Obama win re-election in Ohio, Nevada, and Wisconsin, they have been losing members for many years.
In the early 80s, union membership was about 30% but in recent years, it has declined to just 11.8%. The declining numbers are in part the result of the country’s shrinking manufacturing sector, but the situation has been compounded by recent efforts in Michigan and Wisconsin to limit unions’ power.
And unions have spent $22 million in Michigan on a failed November ballot issue regarding collective bargaining, before Republican Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation this month that stops unions from making workers pay dues or representation fees to keep their jobs.
Michigan is now the 24th right to work state. They also spent $20 million in Wisconsin to remove Republican Gov. Scott Walker this year in a recall election after he signed 2011 legislation stripping most public employees of much of their collective-bargaining power, but Walker still won that election.
The unions also spent roughly $24 million last year in Ohio to overturn an anti-union measure.
This year in California though unions spent more to defeat ballot measure that would curb dues collection than they did total on political efforts in Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.
James Sherk, a labor expert with the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, estimates Michigan unions, including United Auto Workers, will lose an additional $100 million annually as a result of the changes and members leaving.
The anti-union successes in the Midwest have fiscal conservatives thinking they can make similar strides in other parts of the country.
Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Committee, said his group now is eyeing Alaska, Missouri, Montana and Pennsylvania.
“Clearly, this is a strategy by the ultraconservatives to make us spend our resources, but we have no choice,” said Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the nation’s largest public employees union.
The best efforts for these unions now to gain members comes from the service employees, which includes many Hispanics and other immigrants. In Las Vegas, Culinary Workers Local 226, is a fast-growing union of hotel and casino employees in right-to-work Nevada. More than 90% of the union’s 60,000 predominantly immigrant workers opt to be dues-paying members.
“National unions need to look at what some of the folks out here have done,” said Billy Vassiliadis, former chairman of the state Democratic Party.
But still no matter what happens, union membership has also fallen in Nevada from 20% to 14.6%.
- Posted in: Business ♦ Current Events
- Tagged: a labor expert with the conservative Heritage Foundation, collective bargainng, Culinary Workers Local 226, James Sherk, Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Committee, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, Republican Gov. Scott Walker, right to work states, US labor unions lose members