Wednesday, March 1, 2017 | 2 a.m.
Union membership in Nevada dropped last year to its lowest level since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics began collecting data in 1989, according to statistics released last week by the federal government.
Members of unions accounted for 12.1 percent of wage and salary workers in the Silver State in 2016, a slice that equates to 146,000 workers. That represented a sharp drop from 14.3 percent in 2015 and also contrasted with nearly nearly six years of the figure holding steady at just above 14 percent. Nevada’s union membership places the state in a tie for 14th nationally with Massachusetts and well above the national average of 10.7 percent.
In addition to the 146,000 members of unions, another 36,000 workers in Nevada are represented by a union or covered by an employee association of contracting while not belonging to a union. Combined with union members, the two groups account for 15 percent of total employees in the state. That ranks Nevada 13th in the nation in the category, but also registers as a precipitous fall from a tie for eighth with Michigan in 2015.
UNLV economics chairman Jeff Waddoups examined the federal statistics as well as deeper breakdowns of union membership, and explained more about Nevada’s slide.
“A large drop in union density occurred among public sector workers, and it fell more in the membership figure than the coverage figure,” Waddoups said. “Public sector unions are losing membership faster than coverage. This means that people who are getting the benefit of union representation are not paying dues, and that unions are having a more difficult time getting workers to pay dues.”
Unionstats.com indicates that all sectors showed declines in union membership last year in Nevada. Public-sector union membership fell from 32.4 to 27.5 percent, while private-sector membership slid from 11.2 to 9.7 percent. Private manufacturing took a big hit, slipping from 11.3 to 4.7 percent and private construction moved down from 19.3 to 16.7 percent.
“Construction has also fallen off, but that might be because employment in residential and light commercial has increased more than in heavy commercial, which is more likely to be unionized,” Waddoups said.
New York leads the country in workforce share of union membership at 24.7 percent, followed by Hawaii at 20.4 percent and Alaska at 19.6 percent. South Carolina ranks at the bottom of the statistics with 2.1 percent membership, trailed by North Carolina at 3 percent and Utah at 3.9 percent.