‘Right To Work’ Makes A Dent In Union Membership Numbers

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Ted Goodman Contributor
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Union membership continues to decline in Southern states, as Republican-dominated state legislatures continue to introduce right-to-work legislation.

Union membership decreased in nine out of 13 Southern states, while it held steady in two others, Kentucky and North Carolina. Membership increased slightly in Mississippi and Tennessee, according to the most recent numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Alabama saw a 2.1 percent dip in union membership, from 190,000 members, or 10.2 percent of the workforce, in 2015 to 153,000 members, or 8.1 percent of the workforce, in 2016.

Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, and Virginia all saw a decrease in union membership of over one percent from the previous year. Eleven percent of Kentucky’s workforce and 3 percent of North Carolina’s workforce are union members, two figures that remained steady from 2015 to 2016.

Kentucky and Missouri became the 27th and 28th states to pass right-to-work legislation, following through on campaign promises made by elected officials ahead of the fall 2016 elections. (RELATED: Missouri Becomes 28th Right To Work Legislation)

Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin have all passed right-to-work bills since 2012. The election of President Donald Trump and Republicans down the ticket has increased pressure on big labor unions who have been struggling with declining membership for years.

Proponents of right-to-work argue that the policy helps create jobs and provides employees with a choice as to whether they want to pay into a union that they may not align themselves with. Opponents claim that the policy of allowing workers to choose whether or not to pay union dues undermines the ability of employees to negotiate fairly with management.

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