The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics released a January report1 detailing that Union membership in New York increased in 2017. According to the report, a national average of approximately 10.7 percent of workers are unionized. However, more than half of the states in the Union had union membership falling below that percentage. At the other end of the spectrum, California and New York continue to have the largest number of Union membership. The union growth was particularly robust in New York State, which added 75,000 members to its union ranks in 2017. With that spike, union members now make up 23.8 percent of the state’s workforce, which is the largest percentage in the nation.
While last year’s growth is certainly nothing to bat an eye at, consistent future increases in union membership are likely to be stifled by the Trump administration’s anti-union policies. For instance, in December 2017 alone the NLRB issued five decisions overturning union-friendly rules that the agency had either enacted or strengthened under the Obama administration. In those decisions, the Board (1) Overturned a 2016 decision requiring settlements to provide a “full remedy” to aggrieved workers; (2) Reversed a 2004 decision strengthening workers’ rights to organize free from unlawful employer interference; (3) Overturned a 2015 decision holding employers responsible for bargaining with workers if they have indirect control over those workers’ employment or have the ability to exercise control; (4) Reversed a 2016 decision safeguarding unionized workers’ right to bargain over changes in employment terms; and (5) overturned a 2011 decision which afforded a group of workers within a larger company to form a bargaining unit. As if gutting those union safeguards is bad enough, we should not expect that trend to change in 2018 as President Trump will seek to elevate another Republican nominee to the Board to keep an advantage on the five-member board.
Even in the face of that adversity, the growth in union membership achieved in New York in 2017 is impressive and should not be overlooked. Rather, the strength and resilience of our workers to continue to fight for their right to bargain collectively and demand safe and fair working conditions and wages should be used as battle cry to show that New York labor will prevail when faced with anti-union policy.