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Union numbers continue their decline in Illinois

By KEVIN BESSLER, The Center Square

For the second straight year, the number of workers who are members of labor unions has declined in Illinois.

Analyzing data from the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, researchers from the Illinois Economic Institute, the University of Illinois, and the University of California-Irvine found that union membership has decreased in the state by more than 56,000 workers since 2017.

The report said the decline was largely due to decreases in union workers in public sector jobs, a traditional labor stronghold. The public sector was shaken by the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Janus vs. AFSCME case, which ended requirements that government workers covered by collective bargaining pay union fees.

Mailee Smith, the director of labor policy with the Illinois Policy Institute, isn’t surprised by the trend.

“The report is encouraging because it shows government employees are exercising their freedom to choose for themselves whether they want to send money to a union,” said Smith.

In the report, researchers highlighted additional demographics and occupational trends about the unionized workforce in Illinois and across the country, concluding that Blacks, military veterans, men and middle-aged workers are more likely to be union members than women and younger workers.

Smith said she expects the trend to continue.

“There are many workers who are still unaware that they have this choice, that they have an option to saying no to union membership and to paying fees to a union,” she said.

Repeated requests for comment from the authors of the research, the Illinois Economic Policy Institute, went unanswered.

PHOTO: Mark Janus, the plaintiff in Janus vs. AFSCME, speaks to supporters outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018. Dan McCaleb/The Center Square

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