Government-union membership fell again in 2019, continuing a decade-long decline. Workers in public-sector unions now number 7.066 million, representing a drop of nearly 100,000 in one year and the smallest government-organized labor membership in 20 years. Since 2009, when the ranks of government-union members peaked at 7.896 million, public-labor groups have lost more than 10 percent of their membership. The percentage of government workers belonging to unions has dropped to 33.6, the smallest proportion of the government workforce since 1978. The most recent numbers illustrate how government unions continue to suffer from the hangover of the recession of 2008-2009, in part because of a slow rebound in government employment during the economic expansion that began in 2010. The numbers may also reflect some losses that unions have suffered in the wake of the 2018 Supreme Court Janus decision, which gave public-sector workers the right to opt out of joining a union or paying fees.
The trends are particularly ominous for public unions because 2019 should have been the year that they started bouncing back. In the tenth year of an economic expansion, state tax and local collections grew robustly, increasing by 9 percent in the second quarter and 5.6 percent in the third quarter, according to government surveys. States and municipalities subsequently hired more workers. The number of local government employees, for instance, jumped by nearly 100,000 in 2019, to 14.573 million. But these gains haven’t translated into increases in union membership, particularly in municipal government, the largest segment of public-sector employment. The total government workforce in America has returned to its pre-financial crash levels, but union headcount has failed to follow suit.
Related: Act 10.