Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Florida's Workers

Florida International University's Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy (RISEP) at the Center for Labor Research and Studies issued its annual report: The State of Working Florida.

I encourage you to take a look at the full report, but since we just celebrated Labor Day I'll highlight the section on Labor Unions:

Union presence in the United States has historically been strongest in industries such as transportation, manufacturing, construction, and government. As our economy shifts away from production towards services unionization rates in the private sector workforce have declined. Large Florida industries such as Leisure and Hospitality and Retail Trade have a very small union presence, which is related to Florida’s poor standing in benefits and protections for workers. Florida ranks 45th in union membership among all workers out of the 50 states and the District of Colombia, with only 5.2% of workers members of unions, compared with 12% in the U.S. Public sector unionization rates are much higher than private sector– 22.6% in Florida compared with 36.2% in the U.S. for public sector, and 2.3% vs. 7.4% for private sector.

In addition, the state government’s public policies are not friendly to unions. Florida is one of eight states with a ban on negotiated requirements of union membership for employees in unionized establishments (also known as a “right-to-work” provision) built into the state constitution. Twenty-two states have such provisions, but most are merely state laws, not constitutional requirements that are much harder to change. “Right-to-work” provisions of this nature hurt unions by allowing workers covered by a union contract to not pay their union dues, i.e., be “free riders” accepting the benefits of a union contract without paying for it. Thus, union coverage in Florida in 2006 was 6.5% even though union membership was only 5.2%. Unions are hurt financially and are unable to represent members (and non-members) as effectively when 20% of those they represent do not pay their dues, as is the case in Florida.

Through collective bargaining, unions help workers to secure good wages and benefits from their work. Unionized workers consistently earn higher wages than non-union workers, and this difference is remarkable given that the highest paid workers, such as managers and executives, are not union members. Union members are teachers, police and firefighters, tradespersons, manufacturing workers, truck drivers, and nurses and but unions are making inroads among janitors and food service workers as well. In 2006 unionized workers in Florida earned 1.35 times what non-union workers earned, making $18.94 per hour compared with $14.02 per hour for non-union workers. The ratio is fairly consistent in Florida, the South, and the U.S.

The RISEP site has data on a variety of topics that may be of interest to my fellow bloggers - so check it out and add to your bookmarks as a research resource.