Pa. Union Membership Declines Post-Janus

In the year following Janus v. AFSCME, which stopped unions from charging nonmembers “fair share fees,” a central question emerged: how would this ruling impact total union membership?

Official reports reveal fee-payers remained non-union (now keeping their millions of dollars in fees), while existing members—frequently unaware of the ruling or restricted from resigning—mostly remained in the union.

Pennsylvania’s most prominent public sector unions report losing 31,800 fee-payers and gaining 500 active members. This nearly 10% decrease in unionization statewide deprived union leaders of an estimated $13.98 million in annual dues and fees. Notably:

  • AFSCME 13 experienced the overall largest decline (21.9%), driven by the loss of over 14,000 fee-payers and a minimal 50-member increase.
  • PSEA lost 6,500 fee-payers and 1,200 members, a combined 5% decline.
  • SEIU Healthcare and State Council lost active members. SEIU 668 gained 700 active members, yet 3,400 lost fee-payers created an overall 14% decline.
  • According to Open Records requests, other unions representing commonwealth employees retained stable membership, with an overall 1,100 gain. However, the loss of fee-payers caused between 12% increases and 53% decreases per union.
    • UFCW, representing liquor store workers, experienced the largest fee-payer loss at 1,450, somewhat offset by a 500-member gain.
  • The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers added 1,000 members—half its number of lost fee-payers.

Collectively, the four largest national unions gained 31,100 active members, but lost 381,000 fee-payers.

  • AFSCME, AFT, and NEA gained between 8,400 and 15,400 active members each, while SEIU lost 4,500 members. The overall decrease in combined active members/fee-payers ranged between 2-9%.

Infographic: Union Membership Trends

Janus’ significance will take years to mature, partly because every union has policies and laws confining even resistant members in their unions.

Less than half of teachers know they can leave a union without paying a fee, according to a recent Teacher Freedom poll [1] mirroring a union member poll taken shortly after the Janus decision. Workers cannot exercise a right of which they are unaware, underscoring the need to inform public workers of their legal rights via the Employee Rights Notification Act.

Further, union maintenance of membership contract provisions—or brief “opt-out windows”—block members’ resignation attempts. Pennsylvania workers have filed at least 10 lawsuits just to leave their unions. Proposed legislation can protect workers’ right to resign.

Workers deserve a free and informed choice about union membership. As the numbers show, union leaders and government officials should do more to empower that choice.


[1] Teacher Freedom, “One Year After Janus: Teacher Attitudes on Unions & Membership,” June 2019,