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2010 Union Numbers Drop Sharply

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By Paul Kersey
Mackinac Center for Public Policy

The latest Bureau of Labor Statistics figures on union membership came out January 21, 2011. For union officials and supporters, the results were grim.

During 2010, employment in Michigan actually ticked up slightly according to BLS, as the state added 21,000 jobs (not an especially impressive number, as there are 3.8 million jobs in the state), but unions in Michigan lost 83,000 members, a decline in membership of 11.7 percent.

Nationwide, unions lost over 600,000 members in 2010, or 4.1 percent of their membership from the prior year.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that in terms of saving or creating jobs in a tough economy, unions do more harm than good.

This is hardly a new development, but is the latest in a long trend.

Ordinarily, one would expect results like this to trigger a period of soul-searching and a shift in tactics, but it would appear that the current corps of union leaders place a higher value on ideological conformity than on economic understanding. The result is a lot of lost jobs among union members.

Workers, in Michigan and across the country, have lost their confidence in the union establishment. That loss of faith, reflected in declining membership and growing support for right-to-work, is entirely understandable.

Paul Kersey became director of labor policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in September 2007, having served as the Center’s senior labor policy analyst since December 2006.

Kersey holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics and in 1993, he received his Juris Doctor from the University of Illinois. Kersey served on the staff of the U.S. House of Representatives Government Reform and Oversight Committee. He served three years at the National Right to Work Committee as director of state legislation.

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