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September 1985, Vol. 108, No. 9
Area wage surveys shed light
on declines in unionization
Declines in unionization over the past 20 or 30 years are well recognized, but no consensus has been reached as to the specific causes. The Bureau of Labor Statistics' area wage surveys provide data for analyzing both the dimensions of these declines and the significance of a major explanation commonly offeredshifts in the industrial, occupational, regional, and demographic composition of the labor force. Such analysis is the purpose of this article.
Between 1961 and 1984, the proportion of employees in unionized establishments declined from 73 to 51 percent among production workers in metropolitan areas, and from, 17 to 12 percent among nonsupervisory office clerical workers. These declines can be attributed partly to employment shifts away from centers of union strength, such as the "smokestack" industries in manufacturing, and toward less organized sectors, such as the service industries. Nevertheless, the degree of organization also declined within individual industries, thus calling into question the importance of structural shifts as an explanation for recent trends in unionization.
This excerpt is from an article published in the September 1985 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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