Michigan Union Membership At Lowest Point In Years

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) -- The number of Michigan workers who belong to a union dropped nearly 12 percent last year, falling to its lowest level in at least 20 years, according to a new government report.

Figures released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that Michigan had 627,000 union workers in 2010 -- 11.7 percent fewer than the 710,000 the state had a year earlier.

The Detroit News reported that 2010's numbers were the lowest since the Labor Department began tracking union membership by state in 1989.

Michigan AFL-CIO President Mark Gaffney blamed the decline in part on the big drop in manufacturing that Michigan experienced. The state has lost about half of its manufacturing jobs since 2000.

Gaffney told the News that the state also has a difficult environment for organizing workers. He said unions must do more to show people that union wages and benefits also help nonunion workers' wages rise, in part because management often seeks to avoid a new union.

"We need to do a better job at explaining what unions do for society," he said.

The new membership statistics come as the Detroit-based United Auto Workers union is about to negotiate new labor contracts with Detroit's Big Three automakers. It also plans a $60 million campaign to try to organize the U.S. factories of foreign automakers.

Meanwhile, some GOP legislators are pressing for right-to-work legislation that Gov. Rick Snyder, a fellow Republican, has said he does not want to consider. Such a law would give workers the right to decide whether to join or financially support a union.

The union membership decline has been a long-term trend, but it hasn't prompted "serious soul-searching among union officials and a reconsideration of tactics," said Paul Kersey, director of labor policy for the free-market-oriented Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Midland.

Michigan's union decline coincided with a nationwide drop in union membership. Nationally, unions lost 612,000 members in 2010, dropping the unionized share of the U.S. work force to 11.9 percent from 12.3 percent in 2009, according to the government's figures. Union membership in the private sector fell to 6.9 percent from 7.2 percent.

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  • by Anonymous on Jan 24, 2011 at 11:58 AM
    the unions should be part owners in the companies that they represent. if they become profitable, everyone benefits, if there is a lsoe, the union is to blame. It eliminates the management from being blame from being money hungry pigs.
  • by Anonymous on Jan 24, 2011 at 07:57 AM
    DAH! you close plants and layoff thousands of people no union dues, no members. Be nice if besides collecting money and kissing the mayors you know what, the union did something for their former members. Like help them find jobs.
  • by Anonymous on Jan 23, 2011 at 05:52 AM
    If the unions were good for all employees, they would not fear the right to work bills. There are cases in michigan that people pay union dues and because they are not considered 'full-time' they are not eligibile to be part of the union. Look at the Food worker union.
  • by dan on Jan 22, 2011 at 10:18 PM
    GOP looks at china model for treating workers. Right to work would lead us BACK to slave wages and conditions. Unions were created for a reason.
  • by Anonymous on Jan 22, 2011 at 06:11 PM
    No the Decline is from people RUNNING from the Unions..their High dues, their bully tactics, their unfounded demands..NOBODY wants to be associated with them anymore!
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