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Wisconsin union membership dipped sharply over two decades

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin saw the sharpest drop in union membership in the country over the past 20 years, according to a report a nonpartisan research group released Tuesday.

The Wisconsin Policy Forum compiled data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the federal Current Population Survey as aggregated by professors from Georgia State and Trinity universities. The data showed that union membership in Wisconsin declined by 9.9% between 2000 and 2021, the sharpest drop in the nation by almost three percentage points.

The report attributed the decline to a dwindling number of construction and manufacturing jobs in the state and Act 10, a law Republicans passed in 2011 that stripped most public sector employees of almost all their union rights.

Andrew Disch, political director of the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters, was unfazed by the news.

“The carpenters union understands the need for change to stay relevant and we will continue our effort to represent all carpenters, regardless of their union affiliation,” Disch said. “Even in the face of challenges, the carpenters union has never been stronger. We are one of Wisconsin’s leading unions, with over 10,000 members statewide. With the ongoing workforce shortages in the trades, a career as a union carpenter remains incredibly attractive – great wages, benefits and lifelong skills without any student loan debt.”

According to the report, the total number of Wisconsin residents employed in manufacturing and construction dropped from 31.5% in 1983 to 24.2% in 2020. Construction union membership dropped about 22% over that period. Manufacturing union membership fell about 23% over the same span.

Wisconsin’s public sector unions have lost about 11,500 members annually since 2011, the report found.

– The Associated Press contributed to this story.

About Nate Beck, [email protected]

Nate Beck is The Daily Reporter's construction staff writer. He can be reached at (414) 225-1814 (office) or 414-388-5635 (mobile).

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