By Sahid Fawaz
Despite being governed by two of the most anti-union politicians, Wisconsin saw its union membership go up last year.
“Labor unions in Wisconsin saw modest growth last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
There were about 230,000 union members in the state in 2017, according to figures released Friday by the bureau, making the percentage of union members at 8.3 percent, two tenths of a percent higher than 2016.
But the modest increase doesn’t necessarily mean long-term growth for labor unions, said Laura Dresser, an economist with the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center on Wisconsin Strategy.
‘I certainly wouldn’t take it as a sign yet that that trend is turning around and that we’re definitely on a growth trajectory with labor,’ Dresser said. ‘It’s just that the very consistent and dramatic declines, at least this year, didn’t happen. It was more of a stagnation.’
The number of Wisconsin workers represented by unions grew from 244,000 in 2016 to 250,000 in 2017, but the percentage remained at 9 percent from 2016 to 2017 because the overall labor force grew at the same time.
The Wisconsin figures largely match national trends.
Union members made up 10.7 percent of the United States workforce in 2017, unchanged from the previous year.
Dresser said shifts in unionization tend to reflect which sectors of the economy are growing and which are declining.
“When the public sector is dynamic, when the manufacturing sector is dynamic, both of that helps the overall unionization rate,” she said. “And as the service sector in the state grows, the unionization rate declines.”
Union membership remains well below the levels seen before Gov. Scott Walker’s signature Act 10 law or passage of the state’s so-called ‘right-to-work’ legislation.
Nonetheless, Wisconsin AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt said he was ‘very encouraged’ by the new numbers.”
For the rest of the story, check out the full article at Wisconsin Public Radio here.