National Union Membership Continues To Decline

Ted Goodman | Reporter

The national union membership rate continued to decline in 2016, dropping another 0.4 percent from the previous year, according to a Thursday report from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS).

The percentage of union workers who are members of a union is 10.7 percent, which is down from 11.1 percent in 2015. Today, 14.6 million wage and salary workers belong to a union, which is 240,000 fewer than in 2015, according to the report.

Public sector workers have a union membership rate that is more than five times that of private-sectors workers — 34.4 percent of public sector workers belong to a labor union, while 6.4 percent of private sector workers are represented by a union.

Education, training, and library occupations, have the highest unionization rate, coming in at 34.6 percent. Workers involved in protective services (police, security) are a close second in terms of unionization rates at 34.5 percent.

Men continue to have a higher union membership rate than women, with 11.2 percent compared to 10.2 percent for women.

New York continued to have the highest rate of unionized employees with 23.6 percent, while South Carolina had the lowest at 1.6 percent of employees belonging to a union.

Farming, fishing and forestry occupations had the lowest unionization rates, coming in at 2.2 percent of workers.

Among major race and ethnic groups, black workers continued to have the highest union membership rate, according to BLS, with 13 percent of black workers belonging to a union. Over 10 percent of white workers belong to a union, while 9 percent of Asians and 8.8 percent of Hispanic workers belong to a union.

Over half of the 14.6 million union members live in just seven states: California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Jersey and Ohio. These seven states make up over half of the nation’s union membership, while only accounting for a third of the nation’s salary employment.

“The sad state of private-sector union membership reveals that union bosses are historical artifacts in 21st century workplaces,” Richard Berman, executive director of the Center for Union Facts said in a statement Thursday.

The 0.4 percent dip comes as unions continue to grapple with the reality of a Donald Trump Presidency. Overall membership is down from one-third of workers in the 1950s, according to the Center for Union Facts. In states like South Carolina, Texas, and Utah, union membership dipped well below 5 percent of the workforce.

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