Unions representing government workers are expanding while organized labor has been shedding private sector members over the past half-century.
A majority of union members today now have ties to a government entity, at the federal, state or local levels.
Roughly 1-in-3 public sector workers is a union member, compared with about 1-in-15 for the private sector workforce last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Overall, 11.3 percent of wage and salary workers in the United States are unionized, down from a peak of 35 percent during the mid-1950s in the strong post-World War II recovery.
The typical union worker now is more likely to be an educator, office worker or food or service industry employee rather than a construction worker, autoworker, electrician or mechanic. Far more women than men are among the union-label ranks.
In a blow to public-sector unions, the Supreme Court ruled this week that thousands of health-care workers in Illinois who are paid by the state cannot be required to pay fees that help cover a union’s cost of collective bargaining.
The justices said the practice violates the First Amendment rights of nonmembers who disagree with stances taken by unions.
The ruling was narrowly drawn, but it could reverberate through the universe of unions that represent government workers. The case involved home-care workers for disabled people who are paid with Medicaid funds administered by the state.