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Dramatic drop in NYC union membership

Dramatic drop in NYC union membership

Union membership in New York City declined in the last year, erasing gains the union movement had made during the strong economic expansion of recent years.

The annual report on union density in the city and the state from the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies, released Monday, reported that 21.8% of all wage and salary workers in the five boroughs were organized, down almost 2 percentage points from the previous year and the same level as in 2012. Still, the level of union density in the city is more than twice the national average.

The losses have been primarily concentrated in the private sector, noted study author Ruth Milkman. In the past several years the rebound in the number of union workers has been primarily because of gains in area where unions have strongholds, including construction and hotels. The tension between construction unions and developers has escalated in recent years as owners have sought to cut costs. Worried about nonunion hotels, the hotel workers union has won a pledge from Mayor Bill de Blasio to institute a special permit process for any new hotels, a de facto requirement that they allow unions. (In return, the union is the most important supporter of the mayor’s presidential campaign.)

The report also contains bad news for conservatives who had hoped the Supreme Court Janus decision would weaken public-sector unions. The court ruled unconstitutional laws in states like New York that required workers covered by collective bargaining agreement to pay dues whether they joined unions or not. The decision has cost unions a significant amount in dues but not membership. Some 66% of public-sector workers in the state and the city belong to unions, a figure that has remained essentially stable.

About 13% of private-sector workers in the city are unionized, a little more than twice the 6% figure for the U.S. as a whole. The 66% public-sector rate in the city is also double the national figure.

The CUNY study is based on data in the American Community Survey and uses a two-year period to improve accuracy.

The article was published on crainsnewyork.com

 

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