New Labor Statistics Suggest Negligible Janus Effect

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) just released 2019 statistics for union representation and membership. In 2019, overall union membership in the United States stood at 10.3%, down a little from 10.5% in 2018. In the public sector, which includes federal, state, and local employees, union membership in 2019 was 33.6%, compared to 33.9% in 2018. The percentage of public sector employees represented by a union (including both members and non-members) held steady in 2019 at 37.2%

2019 v 2018 State & Local Union Membership/Representation

The key question for me is whether these statistics show any effect from the Supreme Court’s Janus decision. To better evaluate that, I recalculated the BLS statistics without the federal employees, who were not subject to fair share fees and thus were not affected by Janus. (Even better would be to recalculate the statistics using only those 21 states affected by Janus; but the BLS did not provide data at that level).

In 2018, 35.53% of all state and local employees were members of a union, while 38.68% of all state and local employees were represented by a union. In 2019, 35.37% of all state and local employees were members of a union, while 38.68% of all state and local employees were represented by a union. So the change in union membership has been a .16% decrease, which equates to about 93,000 employees nationwide.

Obviously, these statistics don’t tell us if the changes were directly caused by Janus or not. However, even if the entire decrease in union membership of .16% employees was caused by Janus, that’s far lower than the doomsday predictions that were made, and arguably is negligible.

It’s also worth noting that in California, union membership increased from 2,405,000 employees in 2018 to 2,504,000 employees in 2019. That’s an increase of 4.1%, or 99,000 employees. Given that union membership is far higher in the public sector than in the private sector, it’s a fair bet that public sector union membership in California actually increased in 2019.

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