Union Membership Mostly Steady in 2014

 

March 2015

 

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Union membership in the United States remained largely unchanged in 2014, according to data contained in an annual report released Jan. 23 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The report stated that 11.1 percent of America’s wage and salary workers were members of unions last year compared to 11.3 percent in 2013, a fractional reduction of 0.2 percent.

 

The number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions, at 14.6 million, was little different from 2013. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent, and there were 17.7 million union workers.

 

In 2014, 7.2 million employees in the public sector belonged to a union, compared to 7.4 million workers in the private sector. The union membership rate for public-sector workers (35.7 percent) was substantially higher than the rate for private-sector workers (6.6 percent).

 

“Today’s release of the annual union membership numbers by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in this economic recovery, people are either seeking out good union jobs or taking matters into their own hands by forming unions to raise wages and ensure that new jobs are good jobs,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

 

“In 2014, workers made great strides and confronted great challenges, including major organizing wins at American Airlines, multiple state legislative victories on the minimum wage and innovative campaigns conducted by carwash workers, among others,” the federation president said. “We recognize, however, that right-wing billionaires’ extremist politics, a rapacious Wall Street and insufficient advocacy from political leaders thwarted further progress.”

 

U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez also weighed in, noting, “Today’s report confirms what we’ve always known: that belonging to a union makes a powerful difference in people’s lives, providing greater economic security and helping them punch their ticket to the middle class.

 

“The economy is resurgent, with an unemployment rate well below 6 percent and job growth we haven’t experienced since the late 1990’s,” Perez continued. “The challenge we face now is creating shared prosperity, ensuring that our growing economy works for everyone. To do that, we need to turn up the volume on worker voice.”

 

According to data from the 2014 BLS report:

 

Public-sector workers had a union membership rate (35.7 percent), more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers (6.6 percent).

 

Workers in education, training, and library occupations and in protective service occupations had the highest unionization rate, at 35.3 percent for each occupation group.

 

Men had a higher union membership rate (11.7 percent) than women (10.5 percent) in 2014.

 

Black workers were more likely to be union members than were white, Asian, or Hispanic workers.

 

Median weekly earnings of unrepresented workers ($763) were 79 percent of earnings for workers who were union members ($970).

 

Among states, New York continued to have the highest union membership rate (24.6 percent), and North Carolina again had the lowest rate (1.9 percent).

 

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