Union membership dropped to a record low last year, dropping by 612,000 workers in 2010 alone, a new analysis from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows.
Membership declined to 11.9 percent of the workforce in 2010, down from 12.3 percent a year earlier. In 2009, the unionized workforce lost 834,000 members, the steepest dip in membership rates ever recorded.
The drop in union membership this year suggests the ongoing decline of organized labor combined with the impact of the recession that began in 2008 that rattled heavily unionized industries such as construction and telecommunications.
In the private sector, unions only account for 6.9 percent of the workforce overall, a sharp divide from government workers, which is 36.2 percent unionized. Local government workers — teachers, fire fighters and police officers — represent the highest percentage of organized labor.
Union organizations used the report to call for government policies that bolstered membership.
“Today’s numbers are a rallying call to lift the floor for all of America’s workers, so they can have a voice on the job, contribute to our economic recovery, and have a future worth fighting for,” said Kimberly Freeman Brown, executive director of American Rights at Work, a pro-union advocacy group.
Unions represented 20 percent of the American workforce when the BLS first began measuring members almost 30 years ago.