The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released union membership numbers today. The percentage of Missouri workers who are members of a union dropped to less than nine percent in 2012, following two years of slight gains.
Missouri’s declines were part of a national trend, though the two percent drop here was among the largest. The number of Missouri workers represented by a union dropped by 51,000 between 2011 and 2012.
The president of the Greater St. Louis Labor Council, Bob Soutier, says it’s to be expected, given the economic downturn. But he says it’s also a sign that unions and trade associations need to push harder for laws that would bring manufacturing back to the U.S.
“That’s our problem. We have given away all of our manufacturing base to other countries," says Soutier.
Soutier says, however, that increased production at the state’s auto plants should stabilize union numbers for a few years. He says membership levels are cyclical, and he expects them to stay steady or even increase over the next few years.
“It’s going to fluctuate as these auto plants fluctuate in the state of Missouri," says Soutier. "Right now there’s a big Ford plant that’s going to be going online in Kansas City, and you’re going to see that number spike back up again. As that plant’s been retooling, that number has fallen. We’re seeing increases in the St. Louis area at the Wentzville plant."
In Illinois, almost 15 percent of the state’s workforce was in a union last year, compared to more than 16 percent in 2011.