Statement | Unions and Labor Standards

News from EPI Erosion of collective bargaining is the result of inadequate labor laws and attacks on workers

The erosion of collective bargaining and union membership shown in today’s Union Members Summary from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reflects ongoing dynamics in the private sector (where union membership density was down 0.3 percent in 2016) coupled with fiscal austerity—which led to slow growth in public sector jobs at the state and local level—and attacks on public sector unionism (where union density declined 0.8 percent). Simply put, workers’ wishes to engage in collective bargaining far exceed their ability to do so because of our inadequate laws. The resulting erosion of collective bargaining exacerbates our decades-long problems with wage stagnation and inequality, hurts not only union workers but also nonunion workers whose wages are higher in industries and occupations with high union density, and weakens workers’ voice in our political life and democracy.