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Connecticut Public Sector Union Membership in Two-Year Decline

Connecticut’s public-sector workforce is the third most unionized in the country with 58.2 percent of employees affiliated with a labor union, according to the latest data released by Unionstats.com. 

New York (65.0 percent) and Rhode Island (61.0 percent) are higher, while South Carolina had the lowest public-sector union membership at 3.8 percent. Two years ago, Connecticut held the top spot, peaking with 74.1 percent of government employees being part of the union. However, since then, the 2022 Current Population Survey — conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau — shows Connecticut has experienced a consecutive two-year decline. 

The data reveals that public-sector union membership accounted for 14.2 percent of Connecticut’s total workforce (down from 14.6 percent in 2021). Meanwhile, 6.9 percent of the private sector, 14.0 percent of the construction sector and 6.9 percent of manufacturing employees are unionized. 

In recent years, the Labor and Public Employees Committee proposed several pieces of legislation that assist big labor — in the private and public sector — with organizing employees through statute that could reverse this trend. 

The committee, which includes present and former union officials — like Sen. Julie Kushner, (D-24), Sen. Jorge Cabrera (D-17) and Joshua Hall (D-7) — indicates there is a strong presence and influence from the labor sector. 

Proposals brought forth during the 2023 session aimed at growing union membership in the probate courts and the legislative branch. Another wanted to reclassify certain managers as employees so they could have collective bargaining rights.  

But the committee’s history of acquiescing to big labor has been consistent. In 2021, committee lawmakers passed a bill that increased unions access to new and existing employees. Public employers must now regularly provide unions with contact information for their employees. It also gave union representatives access to new employee orientations, established union dues authorizations in state law, and requires the employer to rely solely on the union for determining which employees’ union dues to deduct.  

This bill was a direct reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus v. AFSCME (2018), which declared that public-sector employees could not be compelled to pay union dues or fees as a requirement for employment. 

Labor also benefitted after Connecticut legalized marijuana use by adults in 2021, as the legislation included a provision requiring retailers to obtain a labor peace agreement with a union before being awarded a license. 

Labor peace agreements are contracts made between an employer and a labor union with the former agreeing not to undermine the latter’s ability to organize the workforce in exchange for the union not to strike, picket or disrupt the employer’s business. Lawmakers always have the option of hiding labor bills in a budget as they did this past session by requiring grocery stores established in food deserts to enter into a labor peace agreement with a union in order to receive municipal tax abatements. 

Labor unions possess an inherent organizational and financial framework that grants them significant power in identifying candidates, mobilizing voters and promoting individuals who align with their interests, while having the necessary financial resources to achieve these objectives. 

And with more than half of the state’s public-sector employees affiliated with a union, it isn’t surprising that they exert considerable influence over Connecticut’s General Assembly. 

Unionstats.com was created in 2002 by Barry Hirsch of the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University and David Macpherson of Trinity University’s Department of Economics.  

Meghan Portfolio

Meghan worked in the private sector for two decades in various roles in management, sales, and project management. She was an intern on a presidential campaign and field organizer in a governor’s race. Meghan, a Connecticut native, joined Yankee Institute in 2019 as the Development Manager. After two years with Yankee, she has moved into the policy space as Yankee’s Manager of Research and Analysis. When she isn’t keeping up with local and current news, she enjoys running–having completed seven marathons–and reading her way through Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels.

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