Labor unions -- an organized group of workers in a given trade -- have changed the nature of labor relations in the United States. Through collective bargaining, unions have fought to earn many workers' rights that many of us take for granted, including weekends off, a 40-hour work week, and paid vacations.
As the global economy has become increasingly interconnected, however, foreign competition has resulted in weakening union power in much of the country. Traditional union demands for better working conditions, benefits, and pay have made it more difficult for American companies to compete in an international market, where labor is cheap. This has been especially true for the manufacturing sector -- American automakers in particular. Here are five countries manufacturing more cars than America.
With plants closing amid global competition and companies demanding more leeway, the share of U.S. workers who were union members has been on the decline since the 1980s. Union membership rate nationwide declined by 1.1 percentage points in the last decade, from 11.9% in 2010 to 10.8% in 2020.
Union participation is anything but uniform across all states, and in some parts of the country membership remains at levels not seen nationally since the 1980s. Using state-level data on the share of workforces that belong to a labor union, 24/7 Wall St. identified the states with the strongest and weakest unions.
Generally, the states with where labor union participation is weakest, are those that have strong anti-union laws. Perhaps the most common and effective anti-union measures are so-called "right-to-work" laws, which prohibit companies from requiring employees to join a union or pay dues. The term "right-to-work" itself is misleading, as in no way do these laws guarantee employment for those seeking it. Instead, they erode the strength of unions, diminishing their collective bargaining power.
Nearly one in every 10 private sector workers in California, and over half of the state's public sector workforce, are union members. The 2.4 million workers in the state who are unionized comprise 16.2% of the total workforce.
One of the largest and most powerful labor unions in the state is the California Teachers Association. The CTA alone has 310,000 members throughout 1,100 local chapters in school districts across the state. The CTA, along with other public sector unions in the state, including the California School Employees Association and the California Federation of Teachers, are influential forces in state politics.
Union membership statistics are from UnionStats, a database powered by the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. Additional data on historical union membership and union membership by sector also came from UnionStats. Supplemental data on annual median wage came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Employment Statistics program and is for 2019.
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