Despite a two-decade decline in membership, one Indiana labor leader says there are reasons for optimism in union halls throughout the state. AFL-CIO Indiana President Brett Voorhies says one reason for his positive outlook is the recent passage of the “new NAFTA,” the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement that Voorhies believes can lead to more Hoosier manufacturing jobs. “NAFTA was certainly a job killer for most,” said Voorhies, emphasizing “the new NAFTA has a long way to go, but it’s certainly headed in the right direction on bringing more manufacturing here and preventing it from going overseas.”
Voorhies talked about the state of organized labor in Indiana on this weekend’s edition of Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick.
Voorhies says another bright spot for labor is construction activity throughout the state, which he says has remained strong during the pandemic, boosting the state’s building trades. “It’s gotten to the point to where some of the trades can’t get enough apprentices to come in and work,” said Voorhies, who adds that demand is fueling additional training and educational opportunities for workers.
Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the number of workers represented by unions in Indiana declined for the third straight year in 2019, to 296,000, compared to 335,000 just five years earlier.
Union members accounted for 8.3% of wage and salary workers statewide last year, below the national average and a far cry from levels that topped 20% in the 1980s.