The past year wasn’t a good one for organized labor in North Dakota. The state, which has right-to-work laws, isn’t exactly a hotbed of union activity but even the meager foothold organized labor has in the state shrunk in 2014.
According to numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, union membership among full-time wage and salaried workers in the state declined about 18 percent from around 22,000 union members in 2013 to about 18,000 in 2014.
That decline took place even as the total number of full-time wage and salaried workers increased 3.2 percent according to the BLS.
The numbers from BLS are rounded off to the nearest thousand so there’s a margin of error here. But still, ugly picture.
As you can see, the number of workers represented by unions also declined. These would be people who work in jobs that are covered by a union-negotiated contract but aren’t members of the union. Like public workers or teachers who decline to pay dues to their associations.
The decline among these workers was just slightly less painful for organized labor, decreasing about 17 percent from around 29,000 workers to about 24,000.
In 2013 workers represented by unions made up 8.5 percent of the total work force. In 2014 they made up 6.9 percent.
I was tempted to say a chunk of the decline was likely the American Crystal lockout, but that ended in 2013 and doesn’t explain the decline in 2014.
This is undoubtedly bad news for already beleaguered North Dakota Democrats. Unions nationally are, by far, the biggest political spenders in American politics taken collectively. That generally holds true in North Dakota where many Democrat candidates count unions among their few consistent and reliable sources of funds.
Union membership declined nationally 0.2 percent. The decline was much sharper in North Dakota, but the national trend isn’t good for national labor. In 2014 the number of workers who were union members was 14.6 million, or 11.1 percent of the work force.
In 1983 that number was 17.7 million workers or 20.1 percent of the work force.