Monday, April 18, 2016


If you loathe and despise labor unions, then this is probably an upbeat time for you, since unions' overall strength has declined -5.7% in the U.S. over the past decade. (The fact that overall wages are stagnating is no doubt just an unfortunate coincidence). California has actually had an increase in unionized worker, and now ranks 6th among the fifty states in organized workers.

6. California
> Pct. of workers in unions: 15.9%
> Union workers: 2,486,173 (the highest)
> 10-yr. change in union membership: 2.6% (18th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 5.5% (11th highest)

California has by far the largest unionized workforce in the country. There are close to 2.5 million union workers in the state, greater than the combined membership of 23 other states. While this is at least partially because California is the most populous state, it also has the sixth highest union membership rate — 15.9% of workers in the Golden State are active members of organized labor. Public sector workers are much more likely to be unionized than those in the private sector, and about 56% of the state’s workers are employed by governments are in unions. The state’s substantial unions were part of the effort to raise the minimum wage in California to $15 an hour. Governor Jerry Brown signed the wage hike bill last week. ...

It's always tempting for the partisans among us to link one data point to another. ("High unionization means high unemployment! Everyone knows that!")

Except ... economic activity is never caused by one small, single driver but rather a combination of ingredients. How else to explain why Hawaii, with the second highest concentration of unionized workers in the U.S. of A., has the 6th lowest unemployment rates with 3.1%? Or that South Carolina, with the lowest percentage of unionized workers (2.1%) has the 11th highest unemployment rate (5.5%).

Which, come to think of it, matches California's unemployment rate to the decimal point.


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