Although Missouri is seen as anti-union, unions have been steadily getting bigger and growing in the great state. The unionization rate in Missouri was higher than the national rate for the first time in 17 years, which goes to show they are only going to keep growing and people like the idea more than ever.
Missouri unions also added 25,000 members in 2018, and the two-year winning streak gave the state a higher unionization rate than the nation for the first time since 2003. Nationally, 10.3% of workers were union members last year, down from 10.5% the year before.
The latest numbers put Jake Hummel, secretary-treasurer of the Missouri AFL-CIO, in an upbeat mood. “I certainly hope they’re sustainable,” he said. “We’ve seen an uptick in organizing in recent years.”
Recent organizing victories, Hummel said, resulted in about 300 cafeteria workers at St. Louis University, the University of Missouri-St. Louis and Webster University joining the Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees Union, and brought 75 employees at Virbac, a pet products manufacturer in Bridgeton, into the Teamsters.
The membership numbers also got a boost from job growth. Missouri’s construction industry, which is heavily unionized, grew by 4,000 jobs last year. While overall manufacturing employment was flat, Boeing added 2,000 jobs and the state’s auto industry, including General Motors in Wentzville and Ford in Kansas City, is thriving.
Doug Swanson, who runs a labor studies program at UMSL, thinks unions’ higher profile is paying off. The right-to-work vote, he says, started a conversation that continues when construction unions send representatives to a high school career fair. Another good sign, he adds, was the strong public support last year in Wentzville for striking GM workers.