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Ohio Union Membership Grew Slightly In 2016

Labor Union Hall
Wikimedia Commons

More Ohio workers opted to join unions last year – bucking a national trend that showed membership falling.

According to a report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, union membership in Ohio rose to 12.4 percent last year: about 617,000 workers.

Those members are more likely to come from white collar jobs, as unions focus on recruiting government and other public employees. For these workers, contract language on retirement or vacation might be as important as a higher wages, says Dr. Jenny Hawkins, a visiting assistant professor at Case Western University’s Weatherhead School of Management.

“Maybe a union will help or entice white collar workers to join union by claiming they will get them flexibility in their work schedule, by maybe getting the employer to allow them work a day from home."

Labor organizations biggest challenge, however, is reaching younger workers who comprise the bulk of the work force. These workers value career progression and expect to change jobs. Unions reward longevity and seniority, says Dr. Mary Pisnar of Baldwin Wallace University.

“Union leadership has got to break away from that 1950s view of the work environment that all employees need to be judged on the basis of seniority," she says. "They need to shift and change to where all employees can be judged on the basis of their performance and be rewarded accordingly if they’re going to tap into the millennial interest.”

Nationally, 34 percent of public sector workers are unionized, compared to 6 percent of private sector workers. Overall union membership dropped to less than 11 percent of American workers in 2016.