By Alex West
Union membership and representation declined nationally, according to a report released by the Nebraska Department of Labor. In 1983, the oldest date for which comparable data is available, union members constituted 20.1% of all wage and salary workers while in 2010 that proportion fell to 11.9%.[i] The trend holds true in all but four states, including Kansas, Missouri, Arizona, and Nebraska.[ii]
In Nebraska, union membership increased from 8.4% in 2000, the first available year for state specific data, to 9.3% in 2010. The percentage of union representation for wage and salary workers initially slipped mid-decade from 11.7% in 2000, but eventually grew to 11.8% in 2010.[iii] According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, sectors of low unionization in 2010 included agriculture and related industries, as well as, financial services, two major elements of Nebraska's economy.[iv] So where in Nebraska did unions find room for growth?
The answer to this question may ultimately prove to be too elusive due to the scant data available on union membership and representation accessible at the state level through the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Nebraska Department of Labor, but one explanation may be the reach of public sector unions. For instance, the union membership rate nationally in 2010 among private sector workers is only 6.9% while public sector workers are members in a union at a rate of 36.2%. However, without the context of change-over-time those statistics are superfluous. To that end, the figures below show private sector worker membership figures alongside those of the public sector from 2000 until 2010.
(1) Charts above constructed with data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
In the data above, the trend of membership among private sector unions over the last decade was one of decline while the opposite was true for public sector unions whose overall movement was one of growth. The losses of private sector unions had an impact on their proportion of the overall workforce, which slipped by 2.1 percentage points. However, gains by public sector unions failed to translate into a proportional advantage as the increase in government wage and salary workers outpaced union expansion. As such, public sector unions slipped 0.7 percentage points from 2000 to 2010 despite their numerical growth. At the very least, this data suggests that government would be a likely place to find growth in union membership when compared to the private sector.
Presently, Nebraska's union membership and representation rates are within the national median, ranking 22nd and 23rd, respectively.[v]
[i] Castillo, Lendra. "Snapshot! Nebraska's Union Membership." Nebraska Workforce Trends - October 2010 http://www.dol.nebraska.gov/nwd/lmi/es/trends/trends/oct10/Feature 2.pdf
"Economic News Release: Union Membership 2010." Bureau of Labor Statistics. January 21, 2011. http://www.bls.gov/news.release/union2.nr0.htm
[ii] Haley, Kathie M. "Overall Union Membership Continues to Fall, But has Increased in Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, and Arizona." Lexology. February 3, 2011. http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=bc80643a ca24-45f8-b82b-33b3726449a4
[iii]U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Union Affiliation Data from the Current Population Survey: Nebraska. Data Extracted February 11, 2011. http://www.bls.gov/webapps/legacy/cpslutab5.htm
[v] Castillo, Lendra. "Snapshot! Nebraska's Union Membership." Nebraska Workforce Trends - October 2010 http://www.dol.nebraska.gov/nwd/lmi/es/trends/trends/oct10/Feature 2.pdf
Posted by: Berk Brown