Data Indicate Forced Union Dues-Paying Factory Workers Have Far Less Job Security, Lower Wages

A front-page Wall Street Journal article published at the beginning of this week (see link below) and other news reports are calling public attention to the fact that, after many years of decline, manufacturing employment in the U.S. has modestly rebounded since the end of the Great Recession.

Unfortunately, the Journal account and others appearing in major media outlets ignore data showing that even as the total number of manufacturing jobs increased by roughly 480,000 from 2009 to 2012, the number of factory jobs held by unionized workers fell by nearly 130,000.  (Our source for these figures and those in the next paragraph is the web site, maintained by economists Barry Hirsch and David Macpherson.)

In other words, while union-free manufacturing employment in the U.S. increased by 5.2% during the first three years of recovery from the Great Recession, unionized manufacturing employment fell by 8.1%.  From 2011 to 2012 alone, unionized factory jobs fell by 3.6%, while union-free factory jobs increased by 3.4%.

By far the most plausible explanations for these data is that union-free domestic manufacturing companies are more likely to add jobs and less likely to cut jobs than unionized domestic manufacturing companies.  And of course, employees of shrinking Big Labor-controlled firms have far less job security than employees of growing union-free firms.

In addition to the apparent fact that they are less likely to be laid off, union-free manufacturing employees earned an average of $24.30 in 2012, or $1.00 an hour more than the average for manufacturing employees who belong to a union.  (Source:  2013 edition of Hirsch and Macpherson’s Union Membership and Earnings Data Book, published by Bloomberg and the Bureau of National Affairs.)

The vast majority of unionized factory workers hold jobs in one of the 26 states that lack Right to Work laws.  That means it’s very likely they are forced to pay union dues or fees in order to keep their jobs.  Given data that indicate forced union dues-paying factory workers have far less job security and earn lower wages than their union-free counterparts, many of the former group may wonder if having a union monopoly-bargaining agent in the workplace is really worth the cost.

US Manufacturers Gain Ground