I received a press release the other day from the Michigan State AFL-CIO, the umbrella federation for U.S. and Michigan unions. The group is made up of 56 unions representing 12.5 million working men and women. The headline made me smile and sent a glimmer of sunshine in what has been some very dark days for people of conscience and passion in Michigan.
The headline read simply: New Data: Michigan Union Membership Increased in 2015: Michigan unions added 36,000 members last year
Happily, Michigan is not alone in its increase in membership. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 24 states saw an increase in union membership, and although there is a great deal of room for growth, after too many years of union membership decreased, mostly because of a horrid economy and bad Republican economic policy, wages in union states, as have been reported for many decades now, are increasing for union households and furthermore in non-union households they are making about 21% less than Union households.
Some of the other highlights, which can be found HERE in detail, include:
- Public-sector workers had a union membership rate (35.2 percent) more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers (6.7 percent).
- In protective service occupations and in education, training, and library occupations had the highest unionization rates (36.3 percent and 35.5 percent, respectively).
- Men continued to have a slightly higher union membership rate (11.5 percent) than women (10.6 percent).
- Black workers were more likely to be union members than were White, Asian, or Hispanic workers.
- Median weekly earnings of nonunion workers ($776) were 79 percent of earnings for workers who were union members ($980)
Those are the facts, folks!
Michigan State AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber said, “This is good news for all working people in Michigan. Despite the unrelenting attacks from Lansing politicians, working people understand the value of collective bargaining. A union contract gives working people the power to speak up together with one clear voice for fair wages, strong benefits, and time to be with family. And when working people earn wages that can sustain a family, it helps our small businesses and creates more jobs. Lansing needs to get the message, and start working together to make Michigan’s economy work for all of us, not just the wealthy.”
These increases are DESPITE the ongoing attacks against unions and the laws that protect ALL working people.
DESPITE the egregious Right to Work law signed by Governor Snyder, something the vast majority of Michigan citizens disagreed with him on.
DESPITE the GOP-dominated legislature.
DESPITE the fact that it’s easy to walk away from your union, be a freeloader, and expect to get something for nothing legally.
DESPITE all of this, workers have spoken in the only way that makes sense. They have not just stayed in their union, but are joining unions for the reasons articulated above and, at a time when we can use all the good news we can get, this is the best kind of good news.
We vote in different ways and not all of them are at the ballot box. This is one of the ways working people have decided to vote. Strengthening the voice of all workers by staying with or joining a union still and always will make the most sense. Just ask those who are making about 20% less in wages, have weaker benefits, have no options in the workplace, and have no protection for the jobs they perform with excellence.
Clearly, a “vote” to join a union in 2015 sends a message loud and clear to those who look to defeat the proud traditions and strength of what unions represent. Be careful where you tread, lawmakers, because we are growing as union proud and strong and there is no reason to believe that trend will reverse itself any time soon.
Thank you, union membership, for the good news we needed.