Wyatt Employment Law Report


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Government Reports Union Membership Again is Declining

By Edwin S. Hopson

On January 23, 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that in 2012, the union membership rate again dropped over prior year levels.

According to BLS, the overall percent of wage and salary workers who were members of a union was 11.3% as compared to 11.8% in 2011.  The total number of persons holding union membership also declined to 14,400,000.  It was noted that in 1983—the first year BLS began tracking union membership in this way—the union membership rate was 20.1% and total members were 17,700,000.

The union membership rate for private sector workers dropped to only 6.6%.  Public-sector employees in 2012 had a union membership rate of 35.9%.

According to BLS, about half of the 14,400,000 total union members in the U.S. live in just 7 states:  California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Jersey, and Ohio, though these 7 states account for only about one-third of wage and salary employment nationally.

The union membership rates for the following states in 2012 were:

Kentucky: 10%

Tennessee: 4.8%

Indiana: 9.1%

Mississippi: 4.3%

As noted in recent years, the number of public sector workers who are union members exceeds the number private sector union members.


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BLS Releases Union Membership Data for 2011

By Edwin S. Hopson

On January 27, 2012, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor issued its report on union membership for 2011.  It concluded that the percentages and numbers for 2011 was largely unchanged from those for 2010.  The overall “union membership rate” – that is the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of a union — was 11.8%, essentially unchanged from 11.9% in 2010.  The number of workers belonging to unions in 2011 was 14.8 million.  This also was about the same as in 2010.  BLS noted that in 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1% and there were 17.7 million union workers.

 The 2011 data reported by BLS in summary form showed:

–Public-sector workers had a union membership rate  of 37.0% which is more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers at 6.9%.

–Workers in education, training, and library occupations had the highest unionization rate, at 36.8%.

–The lowest rate occurred in sales and related occupations at 3%.

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

workers.

–7.6 million employees in the public sector belonged to a union, compared with 7.2 million

union workers in the private sector.

–Within the public sector, local government workers had the highest union membership rate at 43.2%, consisting primarily of heavily unionized occupations, such as teachers, police officers, and firefighters.

–Private-sector industries with high unionization rates included transportation and utilities at 21.1% and construction at 14%.

–Low unionization rates were seen in agriculture and related industries at 1.4% and in financial activities at 1.6%.

–Among occupational groups, education, training, and library occupations had the highest unionization rate at 36.8% and protective service occupations came in at 34.5%.

— Sales and related occupations had the lowest rates at 3%, and farming, fishing, and forestry occupations were at 3.4%.

–The union membership rate was higher for men was 12.4% while for women  it was 11.2%.

–By age, the union membership rate was highest among workers 55 to 64 years old at 15.7%.

–The lowest union membership rate occurred among those ages 16 to 24 at 4.4%.


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Union Membership Continues to Decline According to BLS

By Edwin S. Hopson

On January 21, 2011, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that in 2010 union membership as a percentage of all workers including public and private sectors declined from 2009.  Thus, in 2009, that percentage was 12.3, but in 2010 it dropped to 11.9.  The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported also that the number of workers belonging to unions declined by 612,000 to a total of 14.7 million. In 1983, the first year for which such data was available, the union membership rate was 20.1%, and there were 17.7 million union workers.

In 2010, for the first time, there were more public sector union members than in the private sector: 7.6 million versus 7.1 million. And in 2010, the union membership rate for public sector employees was 36.2% as compared to the rate for private sector workers at 6.9%.

In the private sector, union membership as a percentage of all private sector workers went from 7.2% in 2009 to 6.9% in 2010.

In 2010, 31 states and the District of Columbia had union membership rates below that of the U.S. average, 11.9%, while 19 states had higher rates. All states in the Middle Atlantic and Pacific areas reported union membership rates above the national average, and all states in the East South Central and West South Central areas had rates below it.

Eight states had union membership rates (combining both public and private sectors) below 5% in 2010, with North Carolina having the lowest rate at 3.2%. The next lowest rates were in Arkansas and Georgia each at 4%, Louisiana at 4.3%, Mississippi at 4.5 %, South Carolina and Virginia each at 4.6%, and Tennessee at 4.7%. The membership rate in Kentucky was 8.9% and in Indiana was 10.9%. Six states had union membership rates over 17.0 percent in 2010: New York at 24.2% (the highest rate), Alaska at 22.9%, Hawaii at 21.8%, Washington at 19.4%, California at 17.5%, and New Jersey at 17.1%.

The largest numbers of union members lived in California with 2.4 million, and New York with 2 million. About half of the 14.7 million union members in the U.S. live in just 6 states: California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New Jersey.

 BLS reported that the data on union membership were collected as part of the Current Population Survey, a monthly sample survey of about 60,000 households that obtains information on employment and unemployment among the nation’s civilian non-institutional population age 16 and over.