Monday, January 30, 2012

Unions: A Slow Fade

I bring you today a graphic I think of as old and familiar. We published it at ECDI back a ways when the most current data were for the year 2000. This chart is brought up to speed now showing union membership from 1964 to 2011. Data for the period 2000-2011 are available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (link); the earlier data are preserved in Social Trends & Indicators USA, Volume 1—or if you need them, send me an e-mail. Those data are also originally from the BLS.

In this period unionized labor has shifted from the private to the public sector. In 1983, for instance 67.6 percent of union members worked in the private and 32.4 percent in the public sector.  The situation in 2011 was 48.8 percent of union members were in the private and 51.2 percent in the public.

Perhaps because employment dropped steeply in 2008—but public employment was, then anyway, less affected, the percent of union members and of those covered by union increases slightly in 2008 and then continues its downward drift the following year. The decline of unionization in the United States represents the weakening of the working population—of which union members are an elite. Do I hear a great sucking sound up there in the stratosphere where the 1 percent live?

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