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Connecticut Union Membership at Three-Year High

Contrary to the national trend of declining union membership, Connecticut stands out with a notable increase in membership, reaching a three-year high in the state. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Tuesday (Jan. 23) that 10%, or 14.14 million workers, were union members in 2023, marking a slight decrease from 10.1% recorded in 2022. Conversely, UnionStats.com reveals a positive trend in Connecticut, where union membership rose from 14.6 % in 2021, 14.2% in 2022, to a notable 16.6% in 2023. 

The increase is attributed to the public sector where the rate climbed from 58.2% in 2022 — the third highest in the country — to 67.1% in 2023. Because of the gains, Connecticut surpassed othersnow ranking them first for the largest percentage increase in the public sector followed by New York (63.5%) and New Jersey (58.2%).  On the flip side, South Carolina and North Carolina boast the lowest percentage of unionized public employees with 6.9% and 9.5%, respectively. 

To a lesser extent, the private sector saw an increase with 7.1% of the workforce belonging to a union in 2023 compared to 6.9% in 2022. This positions Connecticut as the 15th highest state in private sector union membership — two places higher from its 17th ranking in 2022. Hawaii leads the nation with 14.8%, closely followed by New York at 12.0%, while South Carolina claims the lowest private sector unionization rate at 1.8%.  

In the private sector, construction and manufacturing sectors align with the trend of growing membership. Construction saw an uptick from 14% in 2022 to 16% in 2023, while manufacturing experienced an increase from 6.9% in 2022 to 9.9% in 2023. 

The latest data should send a clear signal to lawmakers that the Labor and Public Employees Committee — a body that consistently exerts its power over the General Assembly — does not need any more “help” from them at the expense of taxpayers and the business community. In short, the unions already wield a lot of sway over the state’s purse strings, and their membership continues to grow despite repeated attempts to introduce burdensome bills. In the past year alone, the committee tried to expand the state’s paid sick leave law that would have forced every business in the state to compel employers with one or more employees to provide up to eighty hours of paid leave per year.  

The committee also sought to grant unemployment benefits to striking workers, even when the strike was by their own choosing and did not result in job loss through no fault of their own.  

Additionally, they attempted to remove the subminimum wage for restaurant servers and bartenders, allowing them to receive the state minimum wage (which is currently $15.69 an hour). Similar actions in other states have shown this policy benefiting unions at the workers’ expense. 

It is interesting to note that both Co-Chair Sen. Julie Kuschner (D-Danbury) and Vice Chair Sen. Jorge Cabrera (D-Hamden) of the labor committee have backgrounds tied to big labor before their tenure in the General Assembly. 

The inability of these bills to pass, coupled with the consistent growth in union membership, raises questions about the necessity of the committee’s interventions. Perhaps the committee could refocus its priorities on issues that have mutually beneficial outcomes for both labor and business, rather than solely advocating for labor interests. 

Such an approach might address the state’s rankings as the 49th worst business environment, 46th highest in business costs and the 49th overall least favorable place to start a business. Connecticut also ranks as the 46th worst state in small business growth, suggesting the need for a more balanced legislative agenda. 

But as unions become more powerful, it begs the question: Will lawmakers be able to say no to big labors demands in an election year? With unions gaining strength, the dynamics of political campaigns and policy decisions will inevitably be shaped by these powerful organizations as they hold campaign support and funding over committee members heads. 

We Won the Battle Not the War…Yet 

Rumors circulated this week that the General Assembly would be summoned for a special session to vote on the potential ban on the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035. However, as reported by CT Mirror yesterday (Jan. 25), the new strategy is to tackle the ban issue in the upcoming regular session set to reconvene Feb. 7. 

House Speaker Matt Ritter (D-Hartford) informed House members that the session was being called off, asserting, “I think there’s been really good negotiations, but you have to get a final bill and there are still some sticking points.”  

This suggests lawmakers are aware of the widespread opposition to the ban expressed by most state residents, and they may not want to risk losing their seats in an election year. 

Ritter hinted that when the matter is addressed in the regular session, the prospective bill may resemble the proposal that would have been discussed in the special session. This will involve the establishment of a commission comprised of relevant stakeholders (who were not specified by Ritter) tasked with studying the issue. The commission would conduct public hearings and delve into the technical intricacies of implementing the system. Once completed, a vote on the ban might be considered in three years.  

Nonetheless, there remains a possibility that they adhere to the initial strategy of adopting California’s emission regulations, which dictate that no new gas-powered vehicles can be purchased by the year 2035, with targeted annual mandates of electric vehicles (EV) sales beginning with 2027 model-year cars. Yankee Institute will be closely monitoring the progress of this potential bill and will keep you updated as the saga unfolds. 

This Week on Yankee’s Podcast Y CT Matters  

Edward Ring, contributing editor and senior fellow with the California Policy Center discusses how shifting to “green” energy has impacted California and why Connecticut should steer clear. 

Click HERE to listen 

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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