Today’s Announcement of Decline in Michigan’s Union Membership “Dramatically Highlights” Need for Right-To-Work Laws

Figures do not reveal the complete union membership picture; manufacturing declines announced Tuesday underscore problem

For Immediate Release
Jan. 25, 2007
Contact: Thomas W. Washburne
Director of Labor Policy

MIDLAND — Today’s U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report showing union membership losses in Michigan "dramatically highlights what Tuesday’s revelation of the state’s 2006 manufacturing employment decline already suggested: Michigan needs to fundamentally change its labor climate," said Mackinac Center Labor Policy Director Thomas W. Washburne this morning. The BLS figures show Michigan’s union membership decreased by 38,000 in 2006 — a decline of more than 4 percent from the state’s union membership levels in 2005.

"Moreover," noted Washburne, "these figures do not tell the whole story, particularly in manufacturing. Union manufacturing losses are being masked by increased union membership in traditionally nonunion sectors like child care, where 40,000 workers were jointly organized in November by the UAW and a government employees union. This offsetting increase might bode well for union leaders, but it does not look good for Michigan’s unionized manufacturing workers."

Federal employment data released earlier this week show that in 2006, Michigan lost 39,400 jobs in manufacturing, a historically unionized sector, and was the only state in the nation to post a net loss in nonfarm payroll employment. "This job decline," said Washburne, "has occurred even before the full effect of the automotive industry’s employee buyouts is felt."

Washburne concluded: "Michigan must change its labor climate to reverse this trend. Seven of the eight states that experienced nonfarm employment growth of 3 percent or better in 2006 were states with right-to-work laws that prohibit forced union dues or fees. This advantage is consistent with Mackinac Center research showing that from 1970 to 2000, manufacturing employment grew by 1.43 million jobs in right-to-work states, but declined by 2.18 million in non-right-to-work states."