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Union Numbers Drop In Missouri, Illinois

File photo by Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio
iPad photo of pro-labor union rally on March 27, 2012. Gov. Jay Nixon (D) is addressing the crowd.

The percentage of Missouri workers who are members of a union dropped to less than 9 percent in 2012, following two years of slight gains.

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics released its report on Monday. It showed that 51,000 fewer Missouri workers were in a union in 2012 than 2011. The state was part of a larger national trend, but that 2 percent drop was among the largest.

The decline was to be expected given the economic downtown, said Bob Soutier, the president of the Greater St. Louis Labor Council. But he also called it a sign that unions and trade associations need to push harder for laws that would bring manufacturing back to the U.S.

"That's our problem," Soutier said. "We have given away all of our manufacturing base to other countries."

Soutier says, however, that increased production at the state's auto plants should stabilize the numbers for a few years.

"It’s going to fluctuate as these auto plants fluctuate in the state of Missouri," he said. "Right now there’s a big Ford plant that’s going to be going online in Kansas City, and you’re going to see that number spike back up again. As that plant’s been retooling, that number has fallen. We’re seeing increases in the St. Louis area at the Wentzville plant."

In Illinois, almost 15 percent of the state’s workforce was in a union last year, compared to more than 16 percent in 2011.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

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