January 29, 2016

"Union membership in Wisconsin collapsed in 2015, falling well below the national average for the first time..."

"... and thinning the ranks of the labor movement by tens of thousands of workers in one of its former bastions," the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
The number of dues-paying workers within the state’s labor groups has fallen steadily since GOP Gov. Scott Walker signed his signature legislation, 2011’s Act 10, which repealed most collective bargaining for most public workers. But new federal statistics show that trend intensified in 2015 after Walker and GOP lawmakers followed up on Act 10 by approving so-called right-to-work legislation last spring....

In 2015, 8.3% of Wisconsin workers, or 223,000 in all, were members of unions. That was down sharply from the 306,000 people, or 11.7% of the state’s workforce, who belonged to unions in 2014....

46 comments:

Michael K said...

Khrushchev referred to it as "voting with their feet."

Once written, twice... said...

And Ann, this is what you gleefully supported. The destruction of one of the main tools that helped to build America's middle class and has given many families the opportunity to enter the middle class.

Once written, twice... said...

It should be noted that counties we should be trying to compete with-Germany, South Korea, Japan-continue to have strong union membership as part of their economies.

Ann Althouse said...

"And Ann, this is what you gleefully supported."

I wasn't gleeful about anything, but the 2011 protests shed light on the particular self-dealing problem of public employee unions (which FDR himself opposed). I would not have noticed and understood that problem without the protests, and understanding it, I did agree with Walker. The statistics in question, however, are not limited to public employee unions.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

The term revealed preference springs to mind.

exhelodrvr1 said...

Unions have lost their way - they have become more about the union themselves than about the workers and the product that the workers produce (i.e. the reason for their existence.) Which is typical of most bureaucracies as they age. If this doesn't push them back to where they should be, they deserve to wither away.

Once written, twice... said...

Ann, you have been able to keep you job (even though you have not done the requisite publishing) because you have tenure. Given your narrsistic personality, it is of no surprise that you don't blink an eye about this downward shift for many others in our economy.

You are the Marie Antonette of the blogsphere. (Though, obviously much less well known.)

SJ said...

For some reason, I think the phrase of the day is post hoc, ergo propter hoc.

The union membership declined after Walker's signature legislation.

Yet the unions that lost membership were not affected by the legislation.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Once written, twice... said...

And Ann, this is what you gleefully supported. The destruction of one of the main tools that helped to build America's middle class and has given many families the opportunity to enter the middle class.

I bet Once written mourned the loss of the Berlin Wall too...

MadisonMan said...

Unions have lost their way

Agreed.

I rolled my eyes to see that when MTI Head whats-his-name (Matthews?) retired, the union annointed his assistant as the new MTI Head. Because the direction of Teachers' Unions has been so exemplary in the last 15-20 years? Why not put the same team in charge of this runaway, careening locomotive!

Unions should be about worker safety -- I think it hard to argue against them if that's the case. But Unions seem more to be about perpetuating Unions. Who likes a bureaucracy?

gerry said...

Who likes a bureaucracy?

The bureaucrats.

Todd said...

If [possible] union members were able to see value in the product that unions provide, union membership would grow. It is a cost/value equation like most things in life. Is the value worth the cost. Apparently more people think not.

For those that support the unions and what unions do, how do you explain that when given the choice to participate or not, many (most?) elect to not? It can't be "evil right wing PR" as these are the people that have lived with unions. Have dealt with unions from the inside. Seen the benefits and costs first hand. Yet they still vote with their feet and wallets and leave. Could it possibly be that [heaven forbid] they understand unions better than you? They see how merit plays second fiddle to seniority and that the restrictive rules negotiated with unions might actually hurt business (which ultimately must succeed in order to pay employees) and box in employees, limiting their options and earning potential?

Nah, that is just crazy talk...

jaydub said...

Freedom of association is a wonderful thing.

Francisco D said...

Unions are the enemy of the blue collar working class. They demand higher wages and benefits to the point that the average worker no longer adds value equivalent to what he/she is paid. What happens next? Outsourcing or automation.

If a company is so horribly managed that the workers feel that a union will protect them, they need to consider the alternative of voting with their feet. That company will either change or die (or get a subsidy from the government).

Peter said...

Are these numbers truly "pretty remarkable" (as Will Jones, a labor historian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, apparently claimed)?

Union membership in the USA has been falling since it peaked in 1954; is there any reason to believe that trend will ever reverse? Or perhaps the game was over when Michigan (of all places) became right-to-work (including government employees)?

"https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labor_unions_in_the_United_States#/media/File:Union_membership_in_us_1930-2010.png

http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2015/02/23/385843576/50-years-of-shrinking-union-membership-in-one-map

Bay Area Guy said...

I love union workers.
I have bitter-sweet views on union leaders.
I loathe Government unions and probably most of their members (excluding of course police and firemen)

That about sums it up. The less government union workers, the better. Good job, Walker!

Mrs Whatsit said...

"And Ann, this is what you gleefully supported. The destruction of one of the main tools that helped to build America's middle class and has given many families the opportunity to enter the middle class."

How did being forced to join unions build the middle class? Nobody was forced to join the private-sector unions that increased wages and improved benefits in the early 20th century -- they freely chose to join, and that freedom to improve your own life by joining with others was a huge reason for the early, heady success of private-sector unions.

Walker's 21st century reforms didn't affect those private unions at all, and they didn't force anyone either in or out of public unions. All the reforms did was to give public employees back the same choice that private sector employees have always had -- to join a union only if they want to. Private unions exist only if the workers have voted to have a union in their workplace because they think it's a good idea and worth paying the dues, and not because the law says they must belong to a union if they want to work for the state, and the dues are taken out of their pay and handed over to the union bosses before the workers ever even see it. Once Wisconsin's public employees were given back that choice by Walker's reforms, they were perfectly free to choose to go on belonging to the public unions if they believed in them and thought they were worth having. Oddly enough, having belonged to the public unions and seen how they worked, many of them apparently didn't think they were worth it, and exercised their freedom of choice by quitting. Wonder why.

I thought unions were supposed to be about "power to the people." Walker's reforms took power away from the politically entrenched union leadership and gave it back to the people who work for the State of Wisconsin. Why are you against empowering workers?

Disgusted with Washington said...

Unions had a role regarding safety, which has now been taken over by OSHA. Unions could serve a great purpose by creating and supporting a training and apprentice program, such as the electrical workers. But the power of organization and the promise of easy money from collusion with government invariably turns them bad. The little guy--union and non-union--suffers.

vissarionvich said...

"Khrushchev referred to it as 'voting with their feet.'"

Sorry, Michael K, that was Lenin.

Scott said...

I'm not the biggest fan of unions as organizations. I think they tend to fall prey to the trappings of mob mentality. In fact, they may be the quintessential example of this. As such, I think they're their own worst enemy -- in that they're victims of their own successes.

But let's also not forget that, by and large, most union members are hard-working, decent people who love their country, provide for their families, serve their churches, mow their lawns, and help their neighbors. And unions have done a lot of good things -- none of us would want to endure the kinds of conditions that spurred the unionization movement in the early 20th century.

I don't know if I'd say they're obsolete these days. But they've definitely become anachronisms in some ways.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

But let's also not forget that, by and large, most union members are hard-working, decent people who love their country, provide for their families, serve their churches, mow their lawns, and help their neighbors.

Sure, they're good people--my working class Seattle family has been deeply involved in the longshoremen's union for three generations and those folks are the salt of the earth--but they need to recognize that their leadership is more interested in money and power than anything else, just like most humans, and drop the sainted-worker bullshit.

Segesta said...

Never confuse real unions, like the United Mine Workers, that protect and represent employees in dangerous jobs, with public sector unions, that are basically money-laundering fronts for the Democratic Party.

My name goes here. said...

Do you want workers to join a union? Do you want companies to encourage unions? Here is what you do:

Make a law that the local union becomes responsible for ALL of the safety regulations as a REPLACEMENT to OSHA. There are probably a host of other federal and state agencies that would be legally prohibited from enforcing their regulations if a Union was overseeing them.

All of a sudden a company faced with the choice of working with a faceless government office and their myriad of rules and inspections instead gets to work with a representative of the local workers, they would choose the union.

But unions for government employees? No.

Scott said...

"but they need to recognize that their leadership is more interested in money and power than anything else, just like most humans, and drop the sainted-worker bullshit."

Maybe. But these aren't mutually exclusive ideas. Notice I wasn't defending union leaders writ large. My general point is that many, if not most, union members should really be distinguished from the various kinds of social parasites (some of which, alas, also belong to unions) that are sucking the blood from once great American society.

We have no shortage of people in today's society who feel entitled to just about anything without so much as having to lift a finger. Can we at least stipulate that most (certainly not all) union members don't fit this classification?

Sal said...

Public employee unions are inherently corrupt. They should all be illegal.

Thomas Hazlewood said...

I was union for 5 years, as a mailman. Having seen its adversarial nature and how detrimental to a work ethic union could be, I've been anti-union ever since. Had I the option, then, of walking out, I would have done as these folks in Wisconsin have done, leave the union, and thye've probably done it for the same reasons.

Steve said...

Can't wait until all public unions are banned!!! Hey bureaucrat I am not your slave - find someone else to steal from.

In fact these types of changes are mostly too little too late. See Detroit, Flint, Chicago. The unions will finally be gone after too much damage has been done.

jvermeer51 said...

To once written: one of the great myths is that unions created the middle class. Like all cartels, they redistribute income, but unions do it from people of their income level or poorer.

Francisco D said...

Sal and Segesta,

I make little differentiation between private and public sector unions, although the latter is inherently more corrupt. The current purpose of unions is to keep low (or minus) value added workers in the jobs as well as enrich the union officials and the Democrat Party.

I would propose legislation to outlaw public sector unions. As far as private sector unions, look to the Toyota and Honda plants operating in the US. Better management = no unions.

Real American said...

"Union membership in Wisconsin collapsed in 2015"

You say that like it's a bad thing...

Birkel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Birkel said...

"Once written, twice…" thinks the German, South Korean and Japanese economies are going strong? Boy, that says a lot.

Zero percent growth for Japan since the late 1980s. Negative interest rates are currently on offer. Yeah, boy! Let's celebrate those strong union movements that have produced so much for Japan.

Germany and South Korea likewise, but with different starting dates for their respective economic collapses.

Scott Walker, what is best in life?
To crush your enemies. See them driven before you. And hear the lamentations of their blog commenters.

Surellin said...

The workers are not forbidden from joining the unions, they are simply not forced to do so. If they saw good value from doing so, they would still do so. Apparently many do not. So, the failure is with the unions.

SGT Ted said...

Regardless of where you stand on unions, what has to be recognized is the the unions did this to themselves with their arrogance and corruption.

Burgie said...

A commenter mentioned the high union partcipation in Germany - Germany has a completely different view of unions than the US, it truely is a joint effort to make a better workplace for workers and management alike. Much of their success is due to NOT having a union whose leaders have become Kings, ruling little kingdoms and being extremely well compensated for their efforts. Additionally, you won't find union funds being donated to political parties, the most corrosive practice in the US.

JorgXMcKie said...

I have been a dues-paying member of four different unions in my working life. Two were pretty much totally corrupt and run basically for the benefit of the union "leaders". I left the jobs connected to those as soon as I could find a new job. One was just pathetic and useless and did nothing much for its members but at least didn't line the pockets of the leaders. All did, however, contribute heavily to the AFL-CIO and its political muscle.

My current union is kind of a mix. Locally it seems to allow its contract negotiations to be dominated by 'helpers' from the national that apparently exist to make sure we don't try to negotiate anything the the national hasn't already endorsed [and we pay a bundle for the help]. The union has to date [I was here before the union was organized] has gotten me personally nothing I didn't already have and actually has hurt me and cost me money more often than not.

OTOH, I look at the MEA here in Michigan and see how they for decades essentially force local school districts to run their health care benefits through an MEA insurance management scheme that quite literally cost twice as much as a nearly identical Blue Cross plan that I wanted to puke.

Why would anyone mindlessly want to give these union 'leaders' their hard-earned money?

johns said...

not enough jokes on this thread

JimMtnViewCa said...

Sgt Ted said "... the unions did this to themselves with their arrogance and corruption."

Help me recall: I remember reading that part of the gov't union contract was a stipulation that gov't pay a union-owned company to provide health benefits. After Walker was elected that was jettisoned. The savings to ordinary tax payer was enormous but the workers wound up getting the same insurance from the same source. Only the cost to the tax payers changed. What were the details on that?

wildswan said...

"but the workers wound up getting the same insurance from the same source."

The insurance wasn't from the same source. It wasn't from the Union owned insurance company. But the same level of coverage from other sources was cheaper plus teacher's were required to contribute to the premium. In this way bankruptcy was averted and insurance was kept. But in other states like Illinois the union was too strong, there was no reform and so bankruptcy looms - not because it is necessary but because those unions simply do not care what happens to their membership.

If you think of society as having a triad of economic props, business, the unions, the government, then one member of the triad has had to abandon laissez-faire whereas unions and government still take a laissez-faire attitude toward the consequences of their actions. $15.00 an hour will cause job loss - not my problem; pensions unfunded - not my problem; city bankrupted by union or government demands - not my problem; businesses leaving due to union or government demands - not my problem. That's union-government laissez-faire. That's selfish unions and selfish governments wrecking economies and lives and morally preening as they do it.

JimMtnViewCa said...

Thanks, WildSwan.
I also found this, marked "Mostly True" by left-ish Politifact.
http://www.politifact.com/wisconsin/statements/2014/aug/20/scott-walker/scott-walker-says-union-reform-law-brought-massive/

Craig Howard said...

The union trolls here will never admit that union members in Wisconsin left the "movement" voluntarily.

They'd only belonged because it was required by law.

Labor unions (a Marxist concept that has no place in a free society) certainly did improve the living conditions of their members.

The problem is that the high wages won by the unions reduced the job opportunities for the members' own children. More employees were too expensive.

rsbsail said...

Proof that union membership was coercion.

aritai said...

Here's another domain where an application of today's technology could return unions to their original purpose and values. Membership need not cost more than a few dollars a year for the web services and crowd sourced prioritization and communication with management. With their negotiating leverage being a strike or as often as not finding a job elsewhere, easy enough if they are being underpaid or mistreated. would remove the corrupt political engagement as well as the brutality of extracting their benefits at the cost of other workers, often the least of us. Another good reason to move to one vote per one dollar of taxes paid, in all settings. Imagine a school system where parents actually had a fully represented voice and vote. Yes a fantasy, I know. Though New Zealand did this with remarkable benefit for the least of their society, and arguably the most discriminated against.

cyrus83 said...

The problem increasingly for unions is that they don't really have much more they can pass along to their members. Back when they were first founded, working conditions and pay were the main reasons a worker would join. Working conditions have since largely been addressed by labor laws, Obama solved healthcare with the ACA, and the $15/hour movement is providing wage increases on a percentage scale the unions could only dream of.

So...why exactly does a worker need a union? Other than the ones who would otherwise be fired for cause absent the union's objection? Doesn't seem like it's worth the money anymore.

Rusty said...

Blogger Once written, twice... said...
And Ann, this is what you gleefully supported. The destruction of one of the main tools that helped to build America's middle class and has given many families the opportunity to enter the middle class.

Once again. Labor is a commodity. When it is scarce it can command a high price. When it is common, not so much. When the price of supporting labor outstrips the resources ability to compensate it the resource leaves or dies. GM is a perfect example of this. GM became a labor benefits business using automobiles as a resource to finance benefits. Bankruptcy was inevitable. In other ways regulations have sent many union jobs overseas. Far better to buy alloy steel from over seas where there is fewer restrictions on what can be manufactured.

Phil D said...

"Labor unions (a Marxist concept that has no place in a free society)"

- Labor unions are NOT a marxist concept, though marxism certainly perverted the idea but then that's what marxists do
- If based on the right of free association they most certainly have a place in a free society
- Unions aren't a priori bad, though when they become fossilized, that is when the original circumstances which gave rise to them no longer exist they do have a tendency to become bad (my personal opinion)

That said, closed-shop and/or government unions are of the devil. So all in all a good evolution