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Face of labor changes dramatically

Report cites rise in female members, minorities, college grads, older workers

BY 2020, WOMEN will outnumber men in the ranks of union members, a new study predicts. The report, The Changing Face of Labor 1983-2008, released last November, describes how demographics have changed within the labor movement over the past 25 years and projects how those changes may play out in the future.

“The view that the typical union worker is a white male manufacturing worker may have been correct a quarter of a century ago, but it’s not an accurate description of those in today’s labor movement,” said John Schmitt, a senior economist with the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) and an author of the report. “The unionized work force is changing with the country,” he said.

Among the report’s findings are the following:

  • Only about one-in-ten unionized workers was in manufacturing, down from almost 30 percent in 1983.
  • Just under half (48.9 percent) of unionized workers were in the public sector, up from just over one-third (34.4 percent) in 1983.
  • Over one-third of union workers had a four-year college degree or more. More educated workers were more likely to be unionized than less educated workers, a reversal from 25 years ago.
  • The typical union worker was 45 years old, or about 7 years older than in 1983.
  • Immigrants made up 12.6 percent of union workers in 2008, up from 8.4 percent in 1994.
  • In rough terms, five-in-ten union workers were in the public sector; one of every ten was in manufacturing; and the remaining four of ten were in the private sector outside of manufacturing.

The full report is available for review online at www.cepr.net/index.php/publications/reports/changingface-of-labor/.

Tags  Featured
Reporter  V49N1
Published on the Web: April 16, 2010

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