The Decline of Union Membership

By Joseph Lawler

John Schmitt graphs the decline of union membership revealed in the latest release of BLS data:

There's a long-term split between the fortunes of private-sector unions and public-sector unions. Unions in the private sector have been steadily declining for longer than five decades, and it appears that they are more or less on the way to extinction. Public-sector unions, however, have held steady relative to total employment. As Schmitt notes, though, that the downturn in public-sector union membership in the last year (it fell from 37.0 percent in 2011 to 35.9 percent in 2012) might be the start of a new downward trend for unionized government employees, given the recent developments in public sector labor reforms in several states.

Joseph Lawler is editor of RealClearPolicy. He can be reached by email or on twitter.

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