Union Membership in Manufacturing Hits New Low

The share of American workers in labor unions fell to a fresh record low last year.

The number of union members fell by 170,000 in 2019—a year when U.S. employers added more than 2.1 million jobs—reducing the share of the workforce in labor unions to 10.3 percent, the lowest portion on record since 1983, the Labor Department said last week.

Union membership in manufacturing fell to 8.6 percent in 2019, a record low. Many manufacturers that expanded in the U.S. opened plants in southern states, where unions are rare, or otherwise sought to avoid organized labor as part of a strategy to be competitive with other parts of the world.

Overall union membership rates have trended at record lows for a decade.
The decline reflects both the fading power of organized labor in the U.S. and slower employment growth in traditionally more unionized industries, such as manufacturing, transportation and utilities, compared to health care and other services.

Economists point to the decline as a reason why wage growth has been relatively soft in recent years despite low unemployment and steady hiring. Median weekly pay for full-time union members was $1,095 last year versus $892 for nonmembers, the Labor Department said.

In 2019, there were 14.6 million union members and 141.7 million total U.S. workers.

Source: Wall Street Journal