Deunionization in Wisconsin and Metro Milwaukee: A Statistical Overview

Author: Marc V. Levine

The past four years have been tumultuous ones for organized labor in Wisconsin. In 2011, the passage of Act 10 all but eliminated collective bargaining rights for public workers in the state. In 2015, Wisconsin became the nation’s 25th “right to work” (RTW) state, outlawing contracts between unions and employers that would require non-union employees to pay fees in lieu of union dues in “union shops.”

It was widely expected that these anti-union laws would deal crippling blows to organized labor in Wisconsin, and a recently released report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that union membership in the state has, indeed, fallen precipitously. Between 2014-15, the percentage of Wisconsin workers who are members of unions plummeted from 11.7% to 8.3%. Historically one of the nation’s leading union strongholds, Wisconsin, by 2015, posted union membership rates below the national average.

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