Matt Bigler/KCBS Radio

California Union Membership Falls Again To 14-Year Low

KCBS Radio Afternoon News
February 13, 2019 - 3:18 pm

SAN FRANCISCO — Facing strong headwinds from a recent Supreme Court ruling, union membership in the state of California has fallen to a 14-year low.

An analysis by the Southern California News Group found a more than 3 percent drop in membership statewide in the last year. Nationally, there was a .5 percent decline in union ranks. 

The drop is attributed by some experts to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2018 that stated cannot force government workers to pay their union dues.

Kent Wong, director of the UCLA Labor Center, told KCBS Radio that the losses could have been worse.

“The trends we see in California actually reflect a relative stability in union membership from what we had potentially expected to see,” he said. “Many people anticipated that there would be a plunge in public sector union rates, but we actually have not seen that happen here.”

Wong said that, typically, falling rates of union membership put workers at a disadvantage.

“When we see that there is a low union density in a certain industry, it tends to depress wages and benefits for workers throughout that energy,” said Wong. “Conversely, when we see places where this is a higher union density, then all workers within that industry benefit.”  

But despite declining membership around the country, recent strikes, including a widely supported and largely successful six day effort by 34,000 public school teachers in Los Angeles last month, are signs that union organizing remains energetic.  Following their lead, teachers in Oakland and Denver, Colorado are also expected to go on strike for better pay and improved working conditions.

Written by Jordan Bowen.