Saturday, March 4, 2017

Less than 11 percent of US work force belong to unions

In 2016 the US had the lowest percentage of workers in unions on record. The level could drop even lower as right-to-work laws are being pushed at state and federal levels.

Increasing numbers of states with "right-to-work" laws means that in such states workers are not required to join a union in companies with unions and are not required to pay fees to a union. The so-called "closed shop" is banned. Unions are faced with the loss of a great deal of revenue from workers who choose to not belong to the union.
At one time, the right-to-work laws were largely in the conservative south of the US but now even strongholds in the North and Midwest have seen states adopt the anti-union laws. In five years, six states have passed right-to-work laws after a gap of 47 years. University of California historian Nelson Lichtenstein said: “The South is clearly winning this particular civil war.”
Just since the last elections new Republican governors of Kentucky and Missouri have signed right-to-work laws, the 27th and 28th states to do so. If the Senate confirms Neil Gorsuch to replace Antonin Scalla's place on the Supreme Court the 5-4 conservative majority will be restored. Gorsuch's confirmation hearings are scheduled to start on March 20, 2017. They could last up to four days. Unions expected a defeat last year in the case of Friedrich versus California Teachers Association. The case brought by teachers and conservative groups argued that mandatory union fees violate government employee's constitutional rights. When Scalia died the court split on the issue 4 to 4. However, there are similar cases pending and Gorsuch probably being approved by the end of March, government unions may lose The loss would mean that in effect right-to-work laws would apply to about half of the 14.6 million US members of unions, those who work for the federal government.
Greg Junemann, president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers said: “There’s not a doubt in my mind that the clock is ticking on that one.” Mary Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union said that her organization was preparing to become a "voluntary organization" and after Donald Trump won the election she sent a memo to staff announcing that the union would plan a 30 percent cut in its budget which comes almost entirely from dues and fees.
The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), after surveying their 600,000 members found that under right-to-work laws, 35 percent would pay their dues as before. About half were thought to be "on the fence". The other 15 percent would not pay their dues. In right-to work states unionization is less than half that in other states. The right-to-work law not only takes away revenue from unions but divides workers as well.
The new right-to-work laws may have been a factor in Trump's narrow win over Clinton in some Midwestern States including Wisconsin and Michigan. Matt Patterson of the Center for Worker Freedom said in an e-mail: “Did the labor reforms enacted in Wisconsin and neighboring Michigan help Donald Trump win those states? No question in my mind. Hard to fight when your bazooka’s been replaced by a squirt gun.” Two teachers' unions one in Michigan and the other in Wisconsin experienced significant drops in membership after right-to-work laws were passed. In both states teachers' unions have lost thousands of dues-paying members. In Wisconsin the situation was exacerbated by changes Gov. Scott Walker made in the bargaining process. The Wisconsin Educational Association Council(WEAC) has lost about 60 percent of its members.In Wisconsin: Under Act 10, also known as the Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill, most of Wisconsin’s government workers, including public school teachers, are now required to contribute more for their pension and health care benefits.Act 10 also limits collective bargaining to wage negotiations, requires annual union recertification, ends the automatic deduction of union dues, and allows for public sector employees to decide whether they want to join a union and pay dues.Wisconsin’s right-to-work law gives private sector employees the same right to decline union membership and payment of dues.Before Act 10 was passed WEAC had about 100,000 members whereas latest figures show its membership at 36,074.
Both Wisconsin and Michigan teachers' unions are affiliated with the National Education Association. Although NEA still about 3 million members, it has lost more than 300,000 members from affiliated state teachers' union during the period from 2010 to 2015 a decrease of roughly ten percent. Most political donations by the NEA have been to the Democratic Party.
Vinnie Vernuccio, of the Mackinac Center, a free-market Michigan think tank said: “The Michigan teachers’ unions, which have led the charge politically in the state, have been weakened in recent years and that certainly helped Trump. But don’t underestimate the union vote for Trump in key swing states. Exit polls show he did surprisingly well.” As in Wisconsin the Michigan Education Association(MEA) membership declined after right-to-work legislation was passed. When it passed in 2013, the MEA had 113,147 members but by 2016 this had dropped about twenty percent to 90,609. Whereas union leaders were able to mobilize workers to vote for Obama they were not able to do so to the same extent for Clinton. In Ohio, a key state, almost half of union members voted for Trump rather than Clinton.

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