Many point to the economic shift from manufacturing to service sector jobs as one of the reasons for declining union membership.
“Since 1970, most job growth has been in the service-producing sector, a trend expected to continue as non-household service-producing jobs are projected to increase by 17.6 million between 1996 and 2006,” the Department of Labor’s website writes.
Expensive wages and pension funds have caused many companies to seek labor outside of the United States.
“What will define the labor movement of the future, however, is not assaults or the changing economy, but how working people come together to respond to them,” said AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka in a statement. “We enter 2013 with our eyes open and understand that these challenges offer real opportunities for working people to reshape the future.”
The BLS did find that union members earned more than their non-unionized counter parts. The median usual weekly earnings of a union member was “$943, while those who were not union members had median weekly earnings of $742,” the BLS concluded.
Over the years, public support for labor unions has fallen. When Gallup first asked Americans their opinion of unions in 1936, 72 percent approved. Support for labor unions peaked in 1957 at 75 percent approval, the same time when labor union membership was peaking.
Since then, support has dropped considerably, dipping sharply to an all time low of 48 percent in 2009, following the financial crisis. In 2012, approval for labor unions held steady at 52 percent.
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