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U.S. union membership rates continue to decline

New data released by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics reveal the percent of workers who were members of unions in 2019 was 10.3 percent—a record low since 1983, according to BLS.

In the public sector, the union membership rate dipped to 33.6 percent, which is down from 33.9 percent in 2018. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 2018 that no government employee could be forced to financially support a union through “agency fees” in order to keep his or her job. Since the decision, thousands of public employees have either decided to not join the union or have resigned from union membership.

From 2018 to 2019, Minnesota’s teachers’ union lost dues and agency fee revenue from over six percent of the educators it represents, according to its most recent federal filing. Teachers and education support professionals were limited to resigning from union membership during an annual seven-day opt-out “window” in 2018. In 2019, the opt-out window was expanded to 30 days, which the Center believes is in response to our efforts, and is a defensive move to avoid a legal judgment other public-sector unions are facing in Minnesota and elsewhere. (If you are a Minnesota teacher who wants to learn more about your options regarding union membership, visit EducatedTeachersMN.com.)

Government unions are not silent about their political involvement, but they are trying to hide the fact that they are losing members and money. Will unions start to focus more on members’ professional needs, and less on political spending that does not reflect the voting preferences of their members? Or, maybe they won’t, and public employees will continue exercising their First Amendment rights and cutting off the political support that unions once took for granted.

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