May 3, 2024 - News

Despite headwinds, more Hoosier workers unionizing

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Note: Values are not seasonally adjusted; Chart: Axios Visuals

Recent labor movements in Indiana are driving up the share of unionized workers in the right-to-work state, bucking the national trend.

Why it matters: Advocates say unions are a needed proponent of worker rights and compensation, while critics say they throttle progress in the workplace.

The big picture: The share of American workers who are members of a union hit a new low in 2023.

  • 10% of the workforce was part of a union in 2023, down from 10.1% in 2022 and a high of 20.1% in 1983, the first year the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported comparable figures.

Between the lines: The slight drop in the national union membership rate came during a year of significant action for Big Labor, including:

Zoom in: Indiana's share of union members ticked up last year, from 7.4% to 8% — a gain of 22,000 workers.

The latest: Earlham College faculty have been making a unionization push, seeking voluntary recognition from the Board of Trustees.

  • A Change.org petition has more than 650 signatures of students, former faculty members and other supporters advocating that a union will build stability at the small private, liberal arts college in Richmond.

What they're saying: Reece Axel-Adams, leader of the student solidarity movement for the faculty union, said Earlham's small size means that students and professors develop strong bonds.

  • "When a teacher leaves because of low pay … we're not just losing a teacher and a mentor. We're truly losing a friend," Axel-Adams said.
  • "Because of the high turnover rate, students might have two or three different advisors during their academic life. That's just not healthy."

Zoom out: Earlham's effort joins several other high-profile unionization attempts across the Hoosier state, including the long-standing effort from Indiana University's grad workers.

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