Union Membership Grows in 2017

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has released information showing that union membership in Michigan grew in 2017 by 52,000 members.

The percent of wage and salary workers in Michigan who were members of unions also increased from 14.4 percent in 2016 to 15.6 percent last year, the numbers showed.

Ron Bieber, president of the Michigan AFL-CIO, applauded the news, saying it was great for Michigan’s working families and for the economy.

“We need the power in numbers of unions more than ever to protect things our families need, like affordable health care, good schools, and Social Security and Medicare,” Bieber said in a statement. “Now it’s time for our elected officials in Lansing and Washington to get the message, stop attacking working people, and start working together to protect the freedom of working people to negotiate together for a fair return on our work. That’s how we’ll build an economy in Michigan that works for everyone, not just the wealthy.”

Indeed, Michigan’s union membership has been under attack repeatedly during the administration of Governor Rick Snyder. Many will recall that in 2012, the legislature passed and Snyder signed a “right to work” law prohibiting mandatory union membership and union fees in union workplaces.

Since then, legislative Republicans have also sought, though unsuccessfully, to undermine unions in the construction trades by seeking to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law, which ensures construction workers on state-funded projects are paid a competitive wage and benefits that tend to be dictated by union rates.

The Great Lakes Beacon recently reported that effort, now on its third attempt, is receiving “extra scrutiny” after it didn’t secure enough valid signatures to be given the green light for the 2018 ballot by the Department of State.

Also noteworthy is that the statistics announced today show young workers and workers in the professional and information industries seem to be driving union growth.

The AFL-CIO Michigan said since 2012, union membership among workers under 35 has continued rise to the point that they made up three-quarters of new members. That growth has extended into other unions like the Communications Workers of America; the Writers Guild of America, East; the American Federation of Teachers; and the American Federation of Government Employees.

Some 20,000 doctors also joined unions in the last year, the group said.

Nationally, the Bureau showed the number of union members rose by 260,000 in 2017.

Danielle Emerson

Danielle Emerson