New labor statistics confirm that teachers unions are having a tough time recruiting new members. As Mike Antonucci, director of the Education Intelligence Agency, reports for

Thanks to the good folks at the Bureau of Labor Statistics and we can examine the union membership status of teachers from 1983 through 2014. …

[The numbers] confirm in 2014 what occurred for the first time in 2013: There are more non-union teachers than union teachers in the United States.

How is this possible? Well, private schools and non-union charters cut into it, but it is more likely due to the population growth in Southern and Mountain states at the expense of union-heavy Northeastern states. Toss in recent events in Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana, and it is easy to see how the tables have turned. For the unions, the trends are almost all in the wrong direction.

There were 3,753 more union teachers in 2014 than in 2013. That’s the good news for NEA and AFT. The bad news is that there were 34,921 more teachers overall, meaning the unions were able to recruit only 10.7 percent of the newbies.

The big picture is this: Of the 4,535,249 teachers employed in elementary, secondary and special education in 2014, only 49 percent were union members. And the unionization rates for pre-K, kindergarten and higher education were much lower.

Unionization rates are much higher among the old than the young, meaning unions have to increase recruiting just to tread water. Something dramatic has to happen or there is nothing left but to try to slow the rate of descent.

All individuals should be free to join a union if they want, but no one should be compelled to join one. The decline in union membership is largely of union leadership’s own making by using membership dues for political causes that have little if anything to do with education, and oftentimes run counter to rank-and-file members’ beliefs.

Just as parents should be free to choose their children’s schools and education programs, teachers should have their right to free association protected.