Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Midwest vs. South: It's Not Your Grandfather's Unionization Rate

One more day of the Midwest vs. South debate in economic development.  Time to tackle a normally taboo topic--unions.

Unions are the one thing that Southern States like to tout against the Midwest when prospects are looking at sites in both places.  I'm not going to convince the unconvincable, but "Right to Work" states don't have anything on non "Right to Work" states when it comes to unionization.  Though the perception is there, the facts don't bear it out.

In fact, a recent report from the BLS found that states which Ohio often competes have seen increased rates of unionization. Between 2011 and 2010, Florida, Kentucky, and Mississippi actually saw increased rates while Ohio's rate declined.

It's true, though, that when Ohio and Midwest states lose big economic deals to Southern states that its unionization that's the reason given. 

Times are changing, though.

The above is a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics map showing regions of the country and how they compare. What I see on this map is this:  Ohio is more closely aligned with the national average and some Southern states when it comes to union membership rates.  Perception and reality aren't the same.

Much of the difference in overall rates can be attributed to government workers and old-line manufacturers.  In Ohio, state and much of the local government employees are, automatically, placed in a union.  That tends to raise Ohio's rates statistically.

Among Ohio's new manufacturers who have located here in the past 30 years, there are a vast, vast majority that can factually state no new organized unions. 

The Midwest is starting to turn this issue favorably too.

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