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Union membership declines by .6 million

Recession, construction fall-off contribute to drop

AFTER TICKING UPWARDS in 2008, union membership in the United States declined for the second straight year, dropping by 612,000 workers in 2010, according to a new report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Last year, total union membership — both private and public sectors — slipped from 15.3 million to 14.7 million workers, from 12.3 percent of the U.S. workforce to just 11.9 percent. Slightly less than 12 workers out of a hundred belonged to a union at the end of 2010.

In the private sector, the unionization rate stood at 6.9 percent, down from 7.2 percent in 2009. The report showed there were 7.6 million union members in the public sector in 2010 compared with 7.1 million in the private sector.

Writing for the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), senior researcher Ben Zipperer stated that union membership fell in 2009 at about the same rate as employment losses. However, he noted that in 2010 “unions continued to lose members . . . even as employment losses slowed.” Zipperer cited heavy losses in non-residential construction, which is heavily unionized. “Large job losses in the industry will lower the overall unionization rate,” he said.

The top six states for union density last year included New York (24.2 percent), Alaska (22.9 percent), Hawaii (21.8 percent), Washington (19.4 percent), California (17.5 percent), and New Jersey (17.1 percent). Eight states had union densities below 5.0 percent: North Carolina (3.2 percent), Arkansas and Georgia (both with 4.0 percent), Louisiana (4.3 percent), Mississippi (4.5 percent), South Carolina and Virginia (both with 4.6 percent), and Tennessee (4.7 percent).

“These numbers demonstrate the pressing need to provide workers with a voice in the workplace.”
—Labor Secretary Hilda Solis

In a statement released with the BLS report, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis stressed the continuing economic advantage that union jobs offer workers. She said the median wage and salary income for full-time union workers is $917 per week, while nonunion workers earn $717 per week.

“When coupled with existing data showing that union members have access to better health care, retirement, and leave benefits, today’s numbers make it clear that union jobs are not only good jobs, they are central to restoring our middle class,” Solis said. “As workers across the country continue to face lower wages and difficulty finding work due to the recent recession, these numbers demonstrate the pressing need to provide workers with a voice in the workplace and protect their right to organize and bargain collectively.”

Tags  Headline News
Reporter  V50N1
Published on the Web: March 10, 2011

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