Special Report

15 Cities Where Unions Are Disappearing

Source: Thinkstock

5. Wausau, WI
> Unionized workers 2006: 21.7%
> Unionized workers 2016: 9.0%
> 10 yr. workforce change: -9,070 (-8.9%)
> Industry shedding the most jobs: Construction

In 2006, more than 1 in every 5 workers in the Wausau metro area belonged to a labor union. Today, fewer than 1 in 10 area workers are unionized. Declining membership in the metro area’s private sector drove down unionization in the area. There were over 17,000 private sector union members in Wausau in 2006. As of 2016, there were only about 4,000.

Wausau is one of four Wisconsin metro areas where unions are disappearing. Governor Scott Walker, an outspoken critic of organized labor, famously signed a bill in 2015 making the state the 25th in the country to become right-to-work.

Source: Thinkstock

4. Ann Arbor, MI
> Unionized workers 2006: 21.9%
> Unionized workers 2016: 9.1%
> 10 yr. workforce change: +27,589 (+20.6%)
> Industry shedding the most jobs: Manufacturing

Ann Arbor’s workforce has expanded by 20.6% in the last decade — more than triple the U.S. workforce growth rate over that time. Despite the influx of workers, union membership was cut in half between 2006 and 2016. The number of unionized workers in the metro area’s public sector fell by about 3,000, and the private sector lost nearly 12,000 union workers between 2006 and 2016.

Michigan became a right-to-work state in 2012, partially in the hopes of attracting new business. Michigan is currently one of about a dozen states vying for a $1.6 billion Toyota and Mazda assembly plant, and many hope the state’s right-to-work status will give Michigan a leg up on its competition.

Source: Thinkstock

3. Madison, WI
> Unionized workers 2006: 18.2%
> Unionized workers 2016: 5.4%
> 10 yr. workforce change: +38,873 (+13.6%)
> Industry shedding the most jobs: Construction

Declines in union membership in Wisconsin are largely attributable to actions taken by the state government in recent years. Wisconsin became a right-to-work state in 2015, and partially as a result, union membership has been further declining. Today, only about 17,650 workers in the state’s capital city are union members, less than half the number in 2006. Precipitated in part by new limits on public unions’ bargaining power, the number of unionized public sector workers has also decreased by 72% since 2006.

Source: Thinkstock

2. Janesville-Beloit, WI
> Unionized workers 2006: 23.8%
> Unionized workers 2016: 6.1%
> 10 yr. workforce change: -22,890 (-22.4%)
> Industry shedding the most jobs: Wholesale trade

Several factors likely explain the decline in union membership in the Janesville-Beloit metro area in the last decade. In the United States, the transportation, warehousing, and utilities industry is the most unionized in the private sector. While industry employment climbed by 11.7% nationwide in the last decade, it has fallen by 28.3% in Janesville-Beloit over the same period — more than any other metro area on this list.

In addition to employment declining in the most heavily unionized industry, few states governments have cracked down as hard on unions in the last decade as Wisconsin. Since 2006, Wisconsin has become a right-to-work state and imposed new limits on public sector union’s collective bargaining power.

Source: Thinkstock

1. Vineland-Bridgeton, NJ
> Unionized workers 2006: 31.6%
> Unionized workers 2016: 13.8%
> 10 yr. workforce change: -6,626 (-9.8%)
> Industry shedding the most jobs: Educational services, and health care and social assistance

Nearly 1 in every 3 teachers nationwide are unionized — the highest share of any profession. Boasting over 3 million members, the National Education Association is the largest union in the country. It is perhaps no coincidence that in Vineland, New Jersey — the metro area with the steepest decline in union membership — education shed more jobs than any other sector over the last 10 years. Other highly unionized industries — transportation, warehousing, and utilities and public administration — also shed jobs, even as employment in the same industries climbed nationwide.

Between 2006 and 2016, the number of unionized workers in the Vineland-Bridgeton metro area fell by 13,000 — or 60.7%.