California union ranks statewide thinned by 86,000 — a drop of 3.4 percent in a year.

By Jonathan Lansner | | Orange County Register
Published: February 12, 2019 at 2:00 pm | Updated: February 12, 2019 at 4:54 pm

California’s labor movement didn’t have a swell 2018 and shrinking membership could be bad for your wealth, union fan or not.

Two blows hit organized labor last year. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states can’t force government workers to pay union dues, and overall membership statewide fell to a 14-year low.

Unions here and across the nation are dealing with an increasingly hostile environment for growth. Penny-pinching bosses fight hard against unionized workplaces. And workers, scarred from the Great Recession’s mass layoffs, seem more concerned about having any job vs. one with bargaining power.

I filled my trusty spreadsheet with new union data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and and found that California remains organized labors’ top state with 2.4 million members in 2018. But that was the lowest count since the economic boom days of 2004.

Last year, union ranks statewide thinned by 86,000 — a drop of 3.4 percent. Organized labor in only 17 other states fared worse. This union dip in California came despite a 2.1 percent jump in all jobs statewide in 2018.

As a result, 14.7 percent of California workers were union members, the ninth-highest share nationally. That’s down from 15.5 percent in 2017. By the way, No .1 for union penetration is Hawaii at 23.1 percent; next is New York at 22.3 percent, then Washington at 19.8 percent.

But union slippage is not just happening in California. Nationally, union membership fell 0.5 percent in 2018. Labor’s slice of workers dropped to 10.5 from 10.7 percent in 2017.

Much like the nation, California’s unionized hotspot is government-related work. Public-sector union membership statewide was 1.24 million last year — No. 1 nationally. But that, too, was down — off 9.2 percent in a year that saw statewide government jobs overall fall by just 0.7 percent.

Still, 50.3 percent of California government workers are union members, down from 55 percent in 2017. Nationally, union membership in government jobs dropped 0.7 percent in 2018; labor’s slice of all government workers fell to 33.9 from 34.4 percent in 2017.

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