By Victor Skinner
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Are labor unions ready for the knockout punch?
At the peak of American unionization in the 1950s, nearly one in three American workers belonged to a union. That figure, however, has been declining ever since, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics Wednesday pegged nationwide membership at 11.3 percent – a low not seen since the 1930s, the Duluth News Tribune reports.
“To employers, it’s going to look like the labor movement is ready for a knockout punch,” Gary Chaison, professor of industrial relations at Clark University in Worcester, Mass, told the newspaper. “You can’t be a movement and get smaller.”
In total, union membership in the United States dropped from 11.8 percent to 11.3 percent with the loss of about 400,000 union members last year, bringing total union membership nationwide to roughly 14.4 million workers, the Tribune reports.
“More than half the loss — about 234,000 — came from government workers including teachers, firefighters and public administrators,” the newspaper reports.
With teachers, some of the job losses have been tied to declining student enrollment.
But most losses are the result of excessive labor costs. Overly generous teacher union contracts have forced many school officials into a tight spot – they must either secure concessions from union officials or cut student programs and teaching positions to balance their budgets.
And union officials have consistently forced their hand by staunchly refusing to accept less.
Fiscally responsible states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana and others have recognized Big Labor’s uncooperative attitude and taken matters into their own hands.
In Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker greatly restricted collective bargaining rights to curb the union abuses, 46,000 union members left the public sector last year, the Tribune reports.
Many did so because it was the first time they were not obligated by state law to join a union as a condition of employment. When Walker gave workers a choice, they dropped out of their unions in droves.
It was a similar situation in Indiana.
The trend is significant because the public sector is the last frontier for Big Labor. Union membership in the private sector has been dragging for decades, while public sector unionism has grown to about half of all government employees.
As more states recognize the need to put the interests of students and citizens ahead of labor bosses, we expect the declining union membership numbers to continue.