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Union membership in Wisconsin is at its lowest since at least 1989, the earliest year for which the Bureau of Labor Statistics has data. It currently stands at 7.1% of the state workforce.

In all, 187,000 Wisconsin workers were members of unions or employee associations similar to unions in 2022 — down 13% from 215,000 just the year before. Since 1989, membership is down 59%, when 456,000 workers were union members. 

Union membership has been declining nationwide for many years, but Wisconsin’s drop is among the most significant. Wisconsin Policy Forum attributes this to the state’s passage of Act 10 and right-to-work laws, which waived union dues as a condition of employment for people under a union contract.

WPF also cited production shifting overseas, increasing automation and the rise of service-sector jobs as additional factors in Wisconsin’s diminishing union influence.

See a full discussion of this at Wisconsin Watch

This Fact Brief is responsive to conversations such as this one.


US Bureau of Labor Statistics: Union membership historical table for Wisconsin

US Bureau of Labor Statistics: Union members — 2022

Wisconsin Policy Forum: State drop in unions among nation’s largest

Wisconsin Public Radio: Wisconsin union membership is the lowest it’s been since at least 1989

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Jacob Alabab-Moser / Wisconsin WatchFact Checker

Jacob Alabab-Moser joined as Wisconsin Watch’s fact checker in September 2022, as part of the effort by The Gigafact Project in partnership with different state-level news outlets to combat misinformation in the 2022 midterm elections. Jacob has several years of experience as a fact checker and research assistant at a variety of organizations, including at The Gigafact Project. He holds a BA from Brown University and is pursuing a MSc from the London School of Economics and Political Science.