Labor Day used to be more than a summer-closing holiday; it was a celebration of labor unions and the American labor movement. That’s easy to forget these days because labor unions don’t have much to celebrate.
At the height of their influence in the 1950s, labor unions could claim to represent about 1 of every 3 American workers. Today, it’s 1 in 9 — and falling.
Some have seen the shrinking size and waning influence of labor unions as a sign that the US economy is growing more flexible and dynamic, but there’s mounting evidence that it is also contributing to slow wage growth and the rise in inequality.
Who are these union members?
While union membership has fallen to just 11 percent of US workers, that’s still 14.5 million people — more than twice the population of Massachusetts.
Variations abound when you break the numbers down by race, gender, and geography. There are more union men then union women, and a higher percentage of blacks than whites. Public sector workers are five times more likely to join unions than their private-sector counterparts, and workers in New York are eight times more likely to do so than workers in North Carolina.
Why has union membership fallen so far?
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