Reprinted from Bloomberg News by Josh Eidelson on February 16, 2017.
Last year the total share of US workers who belong to a union fell to 10.7 percent, a record low. That number could go a lot lower in the next few years. Following decades of declining membership, unions face an existential crisis as right-to-work laws being pushed at state and federal levels would ban their ability to collect mandatory fees from the workers they represent, a key source of revenue for organized labor.
Once largely confined to the conservative South, right-to-work is encroaching on unions’ longtime strongholds in the North and Midwest and, pending a US Supreme Court ruling, could soon cover a majority of the unionized workforce in the US. Following a 47-year lull, six states in five years have passed right-to-work laws. “The South is clearly winning this particular civil war,” says University of California at Santa Barbara historian Nelson Lichtenstein.
In their first weeks in office, the new Republican governors of Kentucky and Missouri have already signed right-to-work laws, making them the 27th and 28th states, respectively, to ban mandatory union fees. By February 16, New Hampshire’s House of Representatives will vote on a proposal, endorsed by the state’s Republican governor and already approved by its Senate, to become the first right-to-work state in the Northeast. In Iowa, where right-to-work is already the law, Republicans are looking to further curb unions’ power with a bill restricting public employees’ collective bargaining rights. …