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Stephen Muscarella, President
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Labor Report: Bucking Trend, Union Membership In Wisconsin Grows – So Does Union Membership In The Southern States Of Georgia & Tennessee

Published Tuesday, January 28, 2014 3:00 pm
by Labor News Services & WNYLT Staff

WNYLaborToday.com Editor’s Note: Your Regional, On-Line Labor Newspaper Ran Across the Following Labor News Reports of Union Membership Growing in the States of Georgia, Tennessee and Wisconsin from These Two New Sites: www.lacrossetribune.com and www.tfponline.com.. You Can Directly Access Them At: http://lacrossetribune.com/news/local/report-bucking-trend-wisconsin-union-membership-grows/article_36f8fda9-7b06-5107-adbd-f384184fb9ba.html & http://www.tfponline.com/news/2013/feb/10/labor-pains-union-membership-drops/.

 

There was a Surprise in the Bureau of Labor Statistics Report Late Last Week on Union Membership: Trade Unions Appear to Have Gained Ground in Wisconsin Last Year.

Wisconsin’s Union Membership Rate - the Percentage of Wage and Salary Workers Who Belong to Unions - Rose from 11.25% to 12.34%, Which was the Seventh Biggest Gain in the Nation. - This After 2012, When Wisconsin Had the Third Largest Decrease in the Nation.

The Change Came as a Surprise to Union Leaders and Academics Alike.

“That was the First Thing that Jumped Out at me When I Opened the Spreadsheet,” said Barry Eidlin, a University of Wisconsin Sociologist Who Studies Labor Unions. “It Was Definitely Not What I Was Expecting at All.

Wisconsin AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt was at a Loss to Explain the Increase.

However, Western Wisconsin AFL-CIO President Bill Brockmiller Suggested Some Unions Have Shifted Some Resources Back Into Organizing after Focusing on Lobbying Activity During the Legislature’s 2011 Move to Rein In Public Sector Unions and the Subsequent Gubernatorial Recall Elections.  Brockmiller Also Noted Some Locals Within the District Have Made Small Gains.

Not Only Does Wisconsin's Increase Go Against Recent State Trends, it Counters a Decades-Long National Trend.  In 1983, More Than One in Five U.S. Workers Belonged to a Union.  Last Year It Was 11.3%, Unchanged From The Previous Year.

“To The Extent You Would Have Been Expecting Anything, It Would Have Been Down,” Eidlin said. “We’ll Have to See Whether This Is Part of a Trend. That Is Still Up In the Air.

The Numbers, Drawn From a Monthly Survey of About 60,000 Households, Show – Overall - About 7.3 Million Public Sector Employees and 7.2 Million in the Private Sector Belonged to Unions In 2013.  That Translates to a Rate of About 35% For Public Sector Workers, But Just 6.7% for Those in the Private Sector.

Overall, Protective Service and Education are the Occupations With the Highest Union Membership Rates, While Sales, Farming, Fishing and Forestry are the Lowest.  Among Private Sector Industries, Transportation and Utilities are the Most Unionized.

The Report Shows Wisconsin Had an Increase of About 24,000 Union Members in 2013, While the Overall Number of Wage and Salaried Workers Dipped by About 36,000.

James Sherk, Who Serves as a Senior Policy Analyst in Labor Economics for the Conservative Heritage Foundation, said the Biggest Statistically Significant Change was in the Financial Sector, with Some Marginal Increase in Wholesale and Retail Trade Unionization.

Even One Union Opponent was Unable to Explain the Change.  “Right Now, It’s Just Interesting,” said David Denholm, Who Serves as President of the Public Service Research Foundation, an Independent Research Organization Focused on Union Influence on Public Policy. “There’s No ‘Pat’ Explanation for it, But It’s Worth Looking At.

 

Labor Pains: Union Membership Drops Nationwide, But Rebounds In Tennessee And Georgia

 

Union Membership Fell Last Year to the Lowest Level Since the 1930s as Recession-Battered States and Municipalities Shed Workers and Organized Labor Struggled to Organize New Members at Growing Private-Sector Companies.

However - Despite the Nationwide Decline, Labor Union Membership Rose Across Tennessee and Georgia Last Year from Job Additions at Traditionally Unionized Factories and Construction Sites and New Growth from Georgia's Growing Movie Industry.

"We Don't Have the Union Density They Do in the Midwest and Northern States, But We've Seen Some Growth and We're Hopeful for the Future," said Georgia AFL-CIO President Charlie Flemming said.  He added that Georgia is Poised to Become the Third Biggest State for Movie Making, Traditionally a Heavily Unionized Business, Behind Only California and New York.  A Training Center and Movie Studio in Fayettevill, Georgia is Being Developed by an Investment Group Working With the Pinewood Studio Group in London.  "This Could Be a Real Growth Industry In Georgia and Most of These Workers are Represented by Unions," he said.

The Rebound in Manufacturing and Construction Also Helped Boost Overall Union Membership in Tennessee and Georgia by 27,000 Workers During 2012, Despite a Nationwide Loss of Nearly 400,000 Union Members Last Year.

By The Numbers: 124,000 Union Members in Tennessee in 2012, Up From 115,000 the Previous Year; 171,000 Union Members in Georgia in 2012, Up from 153,000 in the Previous Year; 166,000 Union Members in Alabama in 2012, Down From 178,000 in the Previous Year; and 14 Million Union Members Nationwide in 2012, Down From 14.4 Million in the Previous Year.  Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Union Affiliations of Employed Wage and Salary Workers by State for 2012.

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