News Story

Union Membership In US Stands At Lowest Level On Record; State Drops To 12th Nationally

For all the talk about unions making a comeback, the numbers tell a different story. The most recent edition of the federal government’s annual labor survey was just released, and it shows that in 2021, union membership declined to an all-time low.

The percentage of workers who are in a union spiked in 2020 because of a steep decline in overall employment, which has largely recovered. Only 10.3% of workers are in unions in 2021, tied for the lowest percentage on record.

Only 6.1% of private sector workers are in a union. By contrast, 33.9% of those who work for a public employer are in a union. Both numbers, however, are near all-time lows. The total number of unionized workers in the country is 14 million, which is almost evenly split between the private sector and the public sector. There were 7,030,000 private sector union members and 6,982,000 public sector workers.

According to the federal survey, 30% of all union members live in just two states – California and New York – though only 17% of the total U.S. workforce lives there.

For its part, Michigan continued to see a drop in union membership. The birthplace of organized labor became a right-to-work state a decade ago. The law, which grants workers the choice of refraining from joining (or paying fees to) a union, has lead to union membership dropping to 13.3% of the workforce in 2021. Michigan is now the 12th- most unionized state in the nation, down from the second-most unionized one in 2000.

The changing economy has helped drive a steady decline in union membership across the country. But these changes have been accelerated by states passing right-to-work laws in the past decade, including Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, West Virginia and Kentucky. In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus decision effectively extended a right-to-work law to all public sector workers in the country.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.