This article enquires into the causes of union growth and decline by analysing flows in and out of membership at the level of 70 Swiss union locals over 2006–2008. Gross flows in union membership are much larger than the resulting net changes: annual membership turnover of 10 per cent is a surprisingly constant feature across unions. Net changes in membership are primarily determined by inflows: successful and languishing union locals differ in their entry rates, whereas exit rates are similar. Variance in union locals' entry rates is not usefully explained by the labour market context, but by differences in union strategy.