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Labor Day brings focus to declining union membership

 A man wears a hard hat while listening to U.S. President Barack Obama speak during Laborfest 2014 at Henry Maier Festival Park September 1, 2014 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Photo by Tom Lynn/Getty Images

For entrepreneurs and small businesses struggling to hire employees at reasonable starting wages, the announcements yesterday, September 1 that union membership is declining may be a blessing. Fox News reported that union membership is only a fraction of what it was during the 1950s, the heyday of unions.

The most recent statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reveal that only 11 percent of the workforce belonged to a union in 2012 and 2013, down from approximately 30 percent during the 1950s. However, public sector unions are still going strong, with teachers, police and firefighters belonging at 35 percent. It’s the private sector union membership that has dropped to 6.7 percent, resulting in the overall decline in union membership. That drop is attributed to the drop in the manufacturing sector, which has seen most of its jobs shipped overseas.

Fast food workers have been the most recent beneficiaries of union membership, which brought them wage increases. However, small businesses and entrepreneurs have managed to avoid the headaches of negotiating with unions, as they tend to hire non-union employees, mostly teenagers and college students, to fill minimum wage, entry-level jobs to keep costs manageable.

According to Inc., small businesses generally do not support unions, and for good reason. Many fear strikes, wage increases and lower profits, which tends to be the case when unions step in and make demands on behalf of their members. For small business owners and entrepreneurs, the decline in union membership should provide some reassurance that their businesses will be able to continue operating, if not thrive.

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