Supreme Court Ruling Hurts the Future of Labor Unions.

The United States Supreme Court dealt a blow to unions this week, which will further diminish the role and importance of unions for the US labor force in the future.

In 2013 there were 14.5 million members in the U.S., compared with 17.7 million in 1983. In 2013, the percentage of workers belonging to a union was 11.3%, compared to 20.1% in 1983. The rate for the private sector was 6.7%, and for the public sector 35.3%. (per Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Interestingly, and perhaps very telling as a backstory, is that blue states are also the ones with the highest union-membership percentages in the nation (NBC news).  Blue states are also where the strongest economies in the Nation are currently found (Washington State being the top State!).  Limiting the power of public unions has long been a goal of conservative groups. They seemed poised to succeed in the Supreme Court in 2016 and have achieved that goal for the most part with this week’s ruling.

Wednesday’s ruling overruled the court’s 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which had made a distinction between two kinds of compelled payments. Forcing nonmembers to pay for a union’s political activities violated the First Amendment, the court said. But it was constitutional, the court added, to require nonmembers to help pay for the union’s collective bargaining efforts to prevent freeloading and ensure “labor peace.”

Given the make up of the Supreme Court now (and how it will move further to the right with Trump’s next appointment) it could be a long time before unions strength swings the other direction towards greater prominence.

 

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