We measure change in union membership since the Janus ruling by subtracting the number of workers paying union dues today from the number who were paying dues in 2018. There were 3,108,670 people paying union dues in the public entities surveyed before the Janus decision. Based on the most recent data we have received, there were 2,563,318 dues payers employed by these public employers. That’s a decline of 17.5%.
According to federal government data, total state and local government employment has increased by 24,000 from 2017 to 2022 (from 17,304,000 to 17,328,000). This shows up in the public records request as well, where most public entities surveyed have hired more employees over the past five years. This is important to take into consideration when estimating the impact of Janus. If the number of potential dues-paying members grew from 2018 to 2022, the data snapshots presented above would underestimate the ruling’s effect.
To account for this, we ask government employers to provide the total number of people covered by union contracts as a way to measure the number of potential union members. This is then compared to the total number of employees who are paying dues. From 2018 to 2022, the surveyed public entities of workers covered by union contracts increased by about 184,000 people.
Public records requests made in 2022 to hundreds of cities, counties, state departments, universities and school districts produced records for 3,293,008 government employees working under union collective bargaining agreements. Of these, 2,563,270 workers were having union dues withdrawn. That means nearly 730,000 public employees, or 22.2%, were working in a unionized workplace but not paying union dues in 2022.
Graphic 3: The impact of the Janus decision on union membership
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics survey, there were an estimated 5.6 million public sector workers covered by collective bargaining agreements in the 22 states directly affected by the Janus decision in 2018. A 22.2% opt-out rate means there are 1.2 million fewer public employees paying union dues than there otherwise would have been. Assuming a conservative average of $600 paid in dues per year per unionized employee, this means the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Janus costs public sector labor unions about $720 million in revenue every year.[*]
[*] Union dues vary and there is no easily accessible data from which to calculate an estimate of the national average. Local, state and federal union affiliates independently determine how much they will charge, and most unions do not publicize these amounts. Michigan’s largest teachers union — and largest public sector union —sets dues at $645, plus extra for local and national dues. “MEA/NEA Dues” (Michigan Education Association, 2021), https://perma.cc/AK58-7PLY. Members of the nation’s largest state-affiliate teachers union — the California Teachers Association, with more than 300,000 members — pay $768, not including national dues. “Membership Dues Structure 2022-23” (California Teachers Association, 2022), https://perma.cc/Q456-YQJ2. The California School Employees Association, whose 250,000 members are nonteaching school employees, charges $472.50 in annual dues, but local affiliates can require additional payments on top of this. “Membership Advantage” (California School Employees Association, 2023), https://perma.cc/G6RL-ELJ8. As an Illinois state employee, Mark Janus paid $540 annually. “The Facts About Janus v. AFSMCE” (Liberty Justice Center, 2022), https://perma.cc/ 9CCJ-L7MW.