NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Union Membership Declines in Private Sector

March 18, 1997

American workers appear to be shunning union halls in record numbers.

  • Between 1992 and 1996, the membership of private-sector unions shrank more than 3 percent -- nearly 320,000 workers -- to 9.4 million.
  • During that period, their market share dropped to 10.2 percent from 11.5 percent of all workers in non-government jobs.
  • Private-sector union membership peaked in 1970 at 17 million, and reached a record high of 36 percent of all workers in 1953.
  • Despite organized labor's aggressive drive to unionize public sector employees, government employee unions at the federal, state and local levels have lost nearly a quarter-million members since 1994.

Unions participated in fewer elections to certify themselves as bargaining agents during the first nine months of 1996 than in the same period of 1995, and lost more of them.

Political observers say that President Clinton could help friendly unions by issuing an executive order permitting federal unions to charge non-members a fee for services rendered -- which would generate huge sums for the unions. But, they say, there is little he can do to shore up unions in the private market.

Source: Leo Troy (Rutgers University), "Unions 'Charge' Into the 21st Century," Wall Street Journal, March 18, 1997.


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