UNION MEMBERSHIP IN MICHIGAN DROPS FOLLOWING RIGHT TO WORK LAW

The U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor statistics, has issued its report of Union membership and other employment statistics for 2014.  The BLS report shows Michigan’s union membership dropping significantly between 2013 and 2014.  The percentage of employed workers who reported being union members in 2013 was 16.3 percent.  This percentage dropped to 14.5 percent in 2014, suggesting a drop of a little over 11 percent.

According to the BLS report, Michigan employed a total of 3,889,000 wage and salary workers in 2013.  That number increased to 4,028,000 wage and salary workers in 2014.  This represents a 12 month increase of 3.6 percent.  

Yet, even with an increase of overall employment in Michigan in 2014, union membership numbers dropped significantly.   According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics report, 633,000 workers reported being union members in 2013.  That number dropped to 585,000 in 2014. 

The drop in union membership reflects a trend over the past several years.  The following graph shows the drop in union membership between 2004 and 2014.  In Michigan, 930,000 workers reported being members of a union in 2004, dropping to 585,000 by 2014.  

Union affiliation data from the Current Population Survey

Employed wage and salary workers, Members of unions, (MI) Michigan

Person counts (number in thousands)

When we look at the number of individuals represented by unions (as opposed to being union members)[1] the percentage of the workers’ represented by unions dropped by only 3.8 percent between 2013 and 2014.  In 2013, 656,000 workers reported being represented by a union.  This is a percentage of 16.9 percent.  In 2014, 631,000 workers reported being represented by a union, reflecting a percentage of 15.7 percent.  At the same time, the percentage change in those individuals who reported being members of the union dropped 11 percent between 2013 and 2014.  Another way of looking at this reflects that 96.5% of those individuals represented by unions chose to be union members.  In 2014, the percentage dropped to 92.9%.

The following graph shows the percentage of employed workers who report being members of unions.    In 2004, 21.6% of employed workers reported being a member of a union.  As indicated earlier, that percentage dropped to 14.5% in 2014.

Union affiliation data from the Current Population Survey

Percent of employed, Members of unions, (MI) Michigan

In comparison, union membership nationally dropped only slightly from 11.3 percent of the total workforce in 2013 to 11.1 percent of the total workforce in 2014.  There may be any number of reasons that can explain the drop in union membership in Michigan.  However, it is very likely that Michigan’s right to work law has impacted those numbers significantly.  In addition, the change in the statute prohibiting school districts from having dues deduction provisions in their collective bargaining agreement has also had a significant impact.  


[1] Union membership reflects the number of individuals who report being dues paying members of the union.  The number of individuals represented by union is the number of workers covered under the terms of a collective bargaining agreement.

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