decline of labor
Trouble for Unions in the Silver State

Nevada has been a centerpiece of union revitalization efforts over the past decade, with hospitality industry of Las Vegas a major focus. But the latest data are grim for organized labor in the Silver State. The Las Vegas Sun reports:

Union membership in Nevada dropped last year to its lowest level since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics began collecting data in 1989, according to statistics released last week by the federal government.

Members of unions accounted for 12.1 percent of wage and salary workers in the Silver State in 2016, a slice that equates to 146,000 workers. That represented a sharp drop from 14.3 percent in 2015 and also contrasted with nearly nearly six years of the figure holding steady at just above 14 percent.

Organized labor in Nevada has been remarkable for being able to thrive despite the fact that a right-to-work law (which makes it more difficult to compel members of a collective bargaining unit to pay dues) has been on the books since the 1950s. But the latest data suggest that the right-to-work system may now be facilitating the decline: According to a University of Nevada professor quoted in the article, public sector employees are increasingly opting out of union membership.

The tick downward in Nevada union membership isn’t just significant for the future of organized labor. It could also have major political implications. For example, Nevada was one of the few swing states where Hillary Clinton out-performed her polling average; some commentators have attributed this in part to the political muscle of the state’s union network. Further declines in Nevada organized labor will not help the Democrats’ electoral prospects there in the future.

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