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People worried that the labor-management sky is falling because of all the publicity that pro-union movements have gotten lately can relax.

The Washington Post reports that "Union membership in the United States fell last year to a new low even as the labor movement scored a string of significant victories at high-profile companies that have long evaded unionization, such as Amazon, Starbucks, Apple, Chipotle and Trader Joe’s.

"The share of the workforce in labor unions dropped to 10.1 percent, the lowest on record, the Labor Department said on Thursday, even as the total number of union members in the United States grew by 273,000 last year. The labor movement could not keep up as the booming job market added 5.3 million jobs, and non-union jobs grew at a faster clip than union positions."

According to the story, "The disappointing numbers for the U.S. labor movement come at a time of unprecedented worker leverage because of the tight labor market — conditions that tend to favor unions and labor activism. American workers, particularly in low-wage jobs, have been able to demand higher pay and better treatment from employers, as labor participation rates remain low and job openings remain high with close to two job openings for every job seeker over the past year. That trend is only beginning to ease.

"Union efforts and labor activism tend to flourish in tight labor markets, where job opportunities are abundant, since employers are less likely to retaliate against workers when they’re a scarce resource."

KC's View:

Two things may be true here.

The obvious one is that because there are more jobs, there are more non-union jobs in addition to more union jobs … and the non-union portion simply is growing faster.

The other one may be that more enlightened companies actually may be creating environments and cultures in which workers feel less compelled to seek union representation.  As more companies pay attention to things like diversity, governance, and environmental issues, they may be creating climates that are more worker-friendly.