HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) -- Union membership in Pennsylvania declined sharply last year following a trend that brought the national rate to its lowest level since the 1930s, according to government figures released Wednesday.
The number of union members in the state shrank from 14.6 percent of the workforce to 13.5 percent. Nationally, membership declined from 11.8 percent to 11.3 percent as cash-strapped state and local governments shed workers and unions had difficulty organizing new members in the private sector.
In the Pennsylvania Capitol, Republican state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe this week launched his perennial "right to work" campaign to ban mandatory union membership.
"Evidence across the nation proves that the most critical and essential step for economic growth is to break the government-sanctioned grip of compulsory unionism by making Pennsylvania America's 25th Right to Work state," Metcalfe said on his website.
Rick Bloomingdale, the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO president, says the federal figures reflect the loss of about 50,000 union members in the state. He said the labor federation would continue working to expand membership.
"Hopefully, we'll see it come back in manufacturing and other ... middle-class sustaining jobs," he said.
Bloomingdale noted that the Legislature has regularly defeated right-to-work bills.
Pennsylvania residents understand that such legislation stems from "a desire to weaken unions and impoverish workers," he said. "It doesn't lead to any job creation; it just leads to lower-paying jobs."