Missouri added 25,000 working people to its union membership last year, propelled by a major right-to-work win victory where Show Me State workers made a compelling public case for the value of unions.
Nationwide, union membership ticked down slightly, falling 0.2 percent according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report. Unionized workers represented 10.5 percent of the total U.S. workforce.
But Missouri bucked the trend. Last year, 9.4 percent of all the state’s workers were union members, up from 8.7 percent in 2017, reported the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The increase, while not enormous by any measure, was fueled in part by the high-profile campaign against Proposition A, where voters overwhelmingly rejected a 2017 right-to-work law passed by Republican majorities in the Legislature and signed by then-Gov. Eric Greitens.
“With thousands of union members collecting signatures for Prop A and knocking on doors during the campaign, we put a real face on organized labor in Missouri,” said St. Louis Local 1 Business Manager Frank Jacobs. “Voters found out it was their neighbors, their kids’ coaches and their church members that were going to be affected by right-to-work. That awareness was certainly a factor in the rise of union membership in our state.”
Right-to-work laws allow employees to opt out of paying fees to the unions required to represent them, despite receiving the benefits of a collective bargaining agreement. In states with such laws, working people make about 3.1 percent less in wages than their counterparts in non-right-to-work states, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
The BLS statement similarly noted that nonunion workers had median weekly earnings that were 82 percent of what union members brought home, or $860 versus $1,051 per week.
Other BLS highlights include:
- Union membership rates of public-sector workers, at 33.9 percent, continued to be more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers, which is 6.4 percent.
- Men continued to have a higher union membership rate, 11.1 percent, than women at 9.9 percent.
- Black workers remained more likely to be union members than white, Asian or Hispanic workers.
The AFL-CIO also noted that the BLS report doesn’t paint the entire picture of labor organizing in 2018, reported the Huffington Post.
“[Last year] was one of the most substantial years for collective action in American history,” the federation said. “In the face of unprecedented attacks, the labor movement continues to show tremendous resilience. Public approval of unions is soaring. And new organizing campaigns in nonunion workplaces are gaining steam.”
In August of last year, Gallup released a poll showing that 62 percent of Americans approve of unions, roughly matching that of the prior year, and the highest since 2003.