Little change in Wisconsin union membership in 2019

manufacturing activity

The number of union members working in Wisconsin remained largely unchanged in 2019 while the percentage workers represented by unions rebounded after dipping in 2018.

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an estimated 219,000 workers in the state were union members last year, up from 218,000 in 2018. The percentage of workers in unions was unchanged at 8.1%.

The number of workers represented by a union increased from 233,000 in 2018 to 245,000 last year. The percentage of workers represented by unions went from 8.6% to 9.1%. The increases in union representation in 2019 brought the state back to the level it was at in 2016 and 2017.

Wisconsin’s union membership and representation has been relatively steady in recent years after a tumultuous early portion of the decade that saw the passage of Act 10 and right-to-work legislation.

In 2009, around 385,000 workers or 15.2% of the workforce in the state were union members and 400,000 or 15.8% were represented by unions. Those figures were down slightly from peaks in 2006 and 2008.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Union membership nationally has seen a steadier decline, which continued in 2019. Union membership declined by 0.2 percentage points to 10.3%, according to the latest BLS data.

Demographic data showed that union membership among men declined from 11.1% to 10.8% nationally while the rate among women declined from 9.9% to 9.7%.

Union membership remained strongest among older workers, but did decline by 0.2 points among those 45 to 54 and 0.6 points among those 55 to 64. Those 25 to 34 declined 0.5 points while the 35 to 44 age group increased 0.1 points.

Across racial and ethnic groups, black workers saw a 1.3 percentage point decline in membership to 11.2%. While that remained the strongest rate among measured groups, others did not see the same level of decline. Membership among white workers declined 0.1 points to 10.3% and Hispanic or Latino membership declined 0.2 points to 8.9%

Asian workers saw an increase in union membership rates from 8.4% to 8.8%.

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Arthur Thomas
Arthur covers manufacturing for BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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