Facing declining membership and shrinking coffers, unions are being more selective about costly organizing drives, but targeted efforts aren’t helping win more workers. Unions won roughly 63% of 1,271 unionization elections in the year ended Sept. 30, according to preliminary figures from the National Labor Relations Board. That is slightly more than the 61.5% rate a decade ago, when 2,600 such elections were held. Unions represent 11.8% of all U.S. workers today, compared with 13.3% in 2002, and a peak of 28.3% in the 1950s.
Unions have preserved their power by organizing smartly, as the new NLRB numbers show.
But they do so to the worst of ends. Big Labor puts itself first, even (and often) at the expense of the general public. Nowhere is this so obvious and harmful as in the public sector, where a small and intransigent group pushes for an ever-increasing share of taxpayer money.
The union brass also benefits at the expense of the union little guy. Public workers have been laid off in several states reckoning with ballooning pension costs. And when unions drive companies to bankruptcy — think Hostess Brands — workers lose big-time.
So unions’ membership decline isn’t that surprising. But it does make Big Labor’s outsized pull in politics all the more obvious.