By Greg David
January 25, 2011
Last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the news–using the word very loosely–that New York remained the most unionized state in the nation. The more interesting question is why, and the answer goes to the heart of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s agenda.
The facts are pretty straightforward. Nationally, the percentage of workers who are members of a union continued its inexorable decline, falling to 11.9% in 2010 from 12.3% a year earlier. More union members work in the public sector than in the private sector (7.6 million compared with 7.1 million), a threshold crossed for the first time last year.
In New York, union membership has fallen to 24.2%, although that may not be significant since the state’s rate has bounced around the 25% level for some years, as the chart below shows.
Year NY union membership
What is crucial is that 71% of government workers in New York state are unionized, according to a study released in September by the Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies at the City University of New York. Union penetration of the public sector is growing in New York, up from 70.6% in 2000, even as it declines slightly elsewhere in the nation.
When you look at the private sector, you find that manufacturing is less unionized in New York than the nation as a whole and that the construction industry is only marginally more unionized (31% in New York to 28% nationally). The higher private sector penetration in New York is due primarily to health care workers, who for all practical purposes should be considered public-sector workers since they are paid in large measure by government programs.
As a whole, New York City is no more unionized than the rest of the state.
The bottom line: New York isn’t a union town, as the saying goes, is a public-sector union town. That’s why the Cuomo agenda of spending cuts is targeted directly at public-sector unions. http://mycrains.crainsnewyork.com/greg_david_on_new_york/2011/01/the-state-of-ny-labor-unions.php