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              FILE - This Nov. 13, 2012 file photo shows AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka speaking to reporters outside the White House in Washington. The nation  FILE - This Nov. 13, 2012 file photo shows AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka speaking to reporters outside the White House in Washington. The nation's labor unions suffered sharp declines in membership last year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Wednesday, led by losses in the public sector as cash-strapped state and local governments laid off workers and _ in some cases _ limited collective bargaining rights. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)   

Union membership continues to decline

Photo of Betsi Fores
Betsi Fores
The Daily Caller News Foundation

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released new numbers Wednesday indicating a continued decline in union memberships. Unionized workers represented only 11.3 percent of the labor force in 2012, down from 11.8 percent in 2011.

“The number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions, at 14.4 million, also declined over the year,”  the BLS found.

“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.”

Public-sector workers are unionized at a rate of 35.9 percent, more than five times higher than private sector workers, only 6.6 percent of which are unionized.

In terms of raw numbers, there are 7 million private-sector workers unionized,  nearly as many as the 7.3 million public-sector workers unionized.

Declining union membership has been a trend for the last 60 years, ever since it reached its height in the 1950s.

Recently, many states have adopted right-to-work laws, which make unionization in the work force optional. The Michigan state legislature recently adopted this policy, despite the state’s history as a haven for unions.