Last year may have been a banner year for job creation in U.S., but it was not a banner year for unions. The percentage of union members among workers nationwide dropped to a new low of 11.1 percent in 2014, extending a decades-long decline for the labor movement.
For union supporters, the new data released Friday by the Labor Department tells a familiar but dispiriting story that illuminates the national debate over slow wage growth and income inequality. A generational shift in the labor market that eliminated U.S. jobs in union-dominated industries has been exacerbated in recent years by assaults on public-sector unions in Republican-led states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana.
Yes, the U.S. created some 3 million jobs in 2014—the most since 1999—but too few of them paid well, and those that already had jobs saw little increase in their salaries. "That's a fundamental consequence of the inability of workers, through collective bargaining, to negotiate for higher wages as the economy improves," Larry Mishel, president of the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, said in an interview Friday. Or, as Jonathan Schmitt of the Center for Economic and Policy Research told The Wall Street Journal: “The overall workforce is growing faster than the union workforce."