The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released the results of its annual survey on union membership. (Click here to view the release and charts.) Overall union membership in the nation remains at 11.3%, a 98-year low. Not since 1916, when the unionization rate was 11.2%, have fewer employees been members of a union. In 2012, California unions bucked this trend by increasing union membership from 17.1% to 17.2%. In 2012 the number of employees in California represented by a union (so this number would include fair share fee payers) also increased from 18.2% to 18.4%.
This trend did not continue in 2013. Last year union membership in California decreased from 17.2% to 16.4%. Similarly, the number of employees represented by a union decreased in California from 18.4% to 17.4%, which translates into 87,000 people. Only eight states had a greater drop in either of these categories.
I’m not sure what caused the drop in 2013, but I suspect the public sector accounts for much of it. While layoffs decreased in 2013, government hiring didn’t necessarily pick up. So when people left or retired, they were not always replaced. My guess is that that accounts for much of the drop.