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Union membership in Illinois last year matches historic low

Illinois AFSCME

MOLINE, Ill. (AP) — Union membership in Illinois matched a historic low in 2016, according to figures from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Union membership accounted for 14.5 percent of the wage and salary workers in the state last year, The (Moline) Dispatch/The Rock Island Argus reported. That is down from 15.2 percent from the previous year and ties the historic low set in 2007.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ figures for Illinois go back to 1989. The highest union membership, 21 percent, was recorded in 1993.

Union membership in the state was still stronger than the national average of 10.7 percent in 2016 and 11.1 percent in 2015. Illinois’ average has exceeded national levels since state comparisons began.

“Across the country, the labor numbers are down,” said Dino Leone, president of the Quad City Federation of Labor, adding that there has been a resurgence in organizing as a result.

Miguel Morga, staff representative at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, said the public employee union is increasing its numbers, both in the state and across the nation. A news release from January says the union has 1.6 million members nationwide and a net growth of 12,000 over the past year.

“AFSCME is always engaging in organizing efforts to grow our membership,” Morga said. “Organizing is a full-time effort and really can never stop.”

Morga said overall declines in union representation are concerning.

“There’s no question that there is a well-funded coordinated effort to discourage workers from exercising their rights under the law, and there definitely needs to be strong efforts put in place to make it easier for workers to exercise their rights and stronger penalties for employers that break the law,” Morga said.