The number of city residents with union jobs in the private sector has dropped by nearly 20 percent since the recession started in 2008, the report by scholars at the City University of New York shows. That amounts to a loss of about 95,000 union jobs, and a decline twice as steep as that for the rest of the nation, said Ruth Milkman, a sociology professor who wrote the report with Laura Braslow.
“This is a big decrease,” Professor Milkman said, and she said it was unlikely to turn around anytime soon. Indeed, as the city’s private sector has added jobs at a healthy rate for much of the past two years, the number of union jobs in the public sector rose but private-sector unions did not rebound, she said.
New York remains one of the last union strongholds in the private sector, and both the state and the city have higher numbers of unionized workers than any other state or big city. But those ranks are dwindling and the weakened position of unions has been evident in some closely watched labor disputes in the past year, Professor Milkman said.
She cited the strike by Verizon employees in August 2011 that lasted two weeks but still has not led to a new contract, and the move by Consolidated Edison this summer to lock out all 8,000 members of its biggest union, Local 1-2 of the Utility Workers Union of America.
Mike Filippou experienced the trend personally after years of repairing and maintaining equipment at the Stella D’oro bakery in the Bronx, where workers made $18 to $22 an hour. He lost that job in 2009 when the bakery’s owners decided to shut it down following a strike that lasted almost a year.
After more than six months out of work, Mr. Filippou found another union position in a bakery, but he had to look out of state to find it. He now works in an Arnold bread bakery in Greenwich, Conn., earning about as much as he did at Stella D’oro but with a less valuable pension.
“It’s terrible what’s happening,” Mr. Filippou said. “In another 10 or 15 years, there’s going to be no unions left. Every union is losing members. Every company doesn’t want a union, doesn’t want to pay union rates.”