A new study released today finds that organized labor still plays a role in Wisconsin’s economy, despite a decline of approximately 136,000 union members over the past decade.
The study, The State of the Unions 2016: A Profile of Unionization in Milwaukee, in Wisconsin, and in the United States [PDF] was conducted by researchers at the Midwest Economic Policy Institute, the Project for Middle Class Renewal at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the School for Workers at the University of Wisconsin-Extension.
Declining union membership in Wisconsin has resulted from a number of factors, including the effects of Act 10 on the public sector and the continued loss of manufacturing jobs. Since 2006, Wisconsin’s union membership rate has declined by 6.6 percentage points, from 14.9% to 8.3%. In a one year period, from 2014 to 2015, union membership dropped 3.3 percentage points. As a result, there are over 150 fewer labor unions and similar worker organizations in Wisconsin than there were ten years ago.
- Men are more likely to be unionized (10.4 percent) than women (6.1 percent);
- Veterans are among the most unionized socioeconomic groups in Wisconsin (12.6 percent);
- By educational attainment, the most unionized workers in Wisconsin hold Master’s degrees (17.0 percent) and associate’s degrees (9.6 percent);
- Public sector unionization (26.1 percent) is five times as high in Wisconsin as private sector unionization (5.2 percent).
Efforts to weaken the labor movement in Wisconsin have disproportionately impacted these workers.
The most unionized occupational groups are maintenance and installation occupations such as mechanics (22.5 percent); construction and extraction such as carpenters and operating engineers (21.o percent); and production occupations such as machinists (16.9 percent).
In Wisconsin, unionization still tends to increase individual incomes by lifting hourly wages. In Wisconsin, unions raise worker wages by an average of 11.0 percent. The state’s union wage effect is the 14th – highest in the nation. The union wage differential is greatest for the lowest 10 to 25 percent of workers, ranging from a 12.0 percent to a 12.7 percent increase in worker earnings. Unions therefore foster a middle-class lifestyle in Wisconsin.
Unions play a vital role in Wisconsin’s economy and communities. The Wisconsin labor movement, however, will continue to face both short- and long-term challenges. Labor’s response to these challenges could define its influence and effectiveness in the decades to come.
“Labor unions lift hourly wages, especially for the middle-class in Wisconsin,” said Frank Manzo IV, Policy Director of the Midwest Economic Policy Institute. “The economic data shows that unions help reduce income inequality in Wisconsin.”
The State of the Unions 2016: A Profile of Unionization in Milwaukee, in Wisconsin, and in the United States can be found here.
- (2016) The State of the Unions 2016: A Profile of Unionization in Iowa city, in Iowa, and in America can be found here.
- (2016) The State of the Unions 2016: A Profile of Unionization in Indianapolis, in Indiana, and in America can be found here.
- (2016) The State of the Unions 2016: A Profile of Unionization in Chicago, in Illinois, and in America can be found here.
- (2015) From ’15 to $15: The State of the Unions in California and its Key Cities in 2015 – California report.
- (2015) The State of the Unions 2015: A Profile of Organized Labor in New York City, New York State, and the United States – New York report.