NewsNation | January 24, 2013
>> in the u.s. is on the decline and that could spell trouble for the democratic party . michigan, the latest state to implement right to work laws, that make it more difficult to unionize lost 42,000 union members just last year. total union membership nationwide fell by 400,000 workers last year to 14.3 million, the lowest rate of union membership since the '30s. joining me is chief economist to the afl-cio. thank you for joining us.
>> thank you for having me.
>> you're in "the new york times" article that discusses the workforce and unions and one of the individuals quoted, a professor at clark university and he says it's a time for unions to stop being clever about excuses for why membership is declining and it is time to figure out how to devise appeals to the workers out there. why do you believe these union numbers are dropping so significantly?
>> well, remember, the key to being in the survey is to have a job. and we have a very weak labor market . the big part of that drop came in the public sector and this is the weakest part of the labor market during the recovery. we're losing teachers. this is important not to the union members only but to the nation as a whole because it means that as we have gone through this recovery, we have not been able to make the proper investment to make sure that the kids are educated for the future. and the private sector drop comes in construction and again we know that need to be building the infrastructure to make america successful for the future and the numbers speak a lot about the weakness in the labor market and especially the weakness in the public sector where we know that we need teachers, we know that we need policemen and we need firefighters.
>> correct. it's interesting that you point to the fact that people are out of work and that may be part of the reason you're seeing declining numbers but the professor of the article you're in se should be looking to unions but they're not. so given your point about so many people being out of work, the theory is that they should be looking to unions at a time of insecurity, especially and a lot of places like michigan, for example, and wisconsin, where we know unions believe they've been under attack.
>> unions have been under attack and that's part of the difficulty in getting union membership up. but unions have been very successful reaching out. one of the key number that is showed up in the vort the continued success of the labor movement and organizing latinos . membership among latinos is up. their union density continuing to climb. the diversity shows in the numbers, as well. those are the highest density of membership most likely members of unions are african-americans so when you look at where the union membership is growing, asian americans , african-americans, latinos , the union movement is getting those new workers, the people joining the labor force . and when you look at how unevenness of the recession has affected different states, you see that the union movement is very successful in states right to work states. union membership was up in texas and oklahoma and georgia and north carolina , tennessee. so, it's not -- these numbers are national and patterns of job growth and patterns of job construction taking place and peeling behind the numbers you see the success of the labor movement where people did not expect.
>> it's an interesting article and will continue to follow the numbers and see what this means and impact of upcoming elections. thank you very much, bill.