Unions represent an ever-shrinking slice of U.S. employees, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Only 11.3% of workers were unionized in 2012, down from 11.8% in 2011. In 1981, 20.1% of American workers belonged to a union.
Several factors have contributed to the decline.
Both Michigan and Indiana, longtime union strongholds, recently became “right-to-work” states, meaning unions cannot require dues to be deducted from workers’ paychecks as a condition of employment.
Many observers also believe last year’s political battle in Wisconsin over union representation of public employees weakened unions there.
About 36% of government employees nationwide are union members, compared to only 6.6% of private-sector workers.
Demographics appear to be working against unions as well.
Only 10.7% of 25- to 34-year-old workers belonged to a union last year, compared to 15.4% of workers aged 45 to 54 and 16.4% of workers in the 55 to 64 age group.
The only state in the nation to buck the trend was California, which saw an additional 100,000 workers join unions in 2012. California has 2.6 million union members, representing 18.4% of the state’s workforce.