News Column

Union Membership Falls to 11.3 Percent Nationally

Jan 23 2013

Todd Spangler


Union membership in the U.S. dropped half a percentage point in 2012 to levels not believed to be seen since the 1930s, driven largely by a decline in the number of government employees who are union members.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics on Wednesday released its estimates of union membership for last year based on the Current Population Survey, a monthly sample of 60,000 households nationwide. It found the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of a union declining from 11.8 percent in 2011 to 11.3 percent last year. It estimated that 14.4 million workers belonged to a union.

California continued to lead the nation in terms of union members with 2.5 million. New York had the highest percentage of workers belonging to a union, at 23.2 percent.

Overall, union membership rates declined in 34 states, rose in 14 others as well as the District of Columbia, and remained unchanged in two.

Union membership is the lowest since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics began estimating data on wage and salary workers in 1983, when union membership was 20.1 percent and there were 17.7 million union workers. A Congressional Research Service report from 2004 suggests last year's rate is the lowest since sometime in the 1930s.

According to the BLS, the public sector continued to have a much higher union membership rate - at 35.9 percent - than private-sector workers, at 6.6 percent. Workers in education, training and library services had the highest unionization rates in the private sector, at 35.4 percent.

Public sector, or government, rates of union membership saw the steepest drops, year-to-year, however. The majority of unionized workers remained in local government, with membership rates still above 40 percent of the total.

In manufacturing, 1.3 million workers - 9.6 percent of the industry's total - were union members, down from 1.4 million workers, or 10.5 percent of the total, a year ago.

Source: (c) 2013 Detroit Free Press Distributed by Mclatchy-Tribune News Service.

Story Tools