Today the Labor Department reported that in 2010 the union membership rate fell by four tenths of a percentage point, from 12.3 percent to 11.9 percent of wage and salary workers. Both private- and public-sector union membership rates declined. Among private-sector workers, the rate fell from 7.2 percent to 6.9 percent, continuing a long-term trend. Public-sector unionization, declining from 37.4 percent to 36.2 percent, bucked a prior trend of rising government-sector union membership.
The reasons for the decline are many. Some American workers tire of seeing their union dues used for political contributions and generous compensation packages for union bosses. Other unionized workers have lost their jobs, as unions price compensation far above the competition, sending union jobs overseas.
State and local budget cuts resulted in job losses for 256,000 local government workers over the past year.
What's clear is that over the past 25 years job growth in "right-to-work" states, where workers cannot be forced to join a union as a condition of employment, has been over twice as high as in unionized states. Americans have been voting with their feet, leaving states with heavy union influence and choosing to live in states with higher job growth.
Mirroring the decline in union membership, nine congressional seats will move to right-to-work states from forced unionization states. Some winners are Texas, Florida, Arizona, Georgia, and South Carolina, while losers include New York, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, and New Jersey.
Examiner Columnist Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.