Pandemic boosts union density

Union density—the share of employed workers belonging to unions—rose in 2020 for the first time since 2007 and 2008. Before that, you have to go back to 1979 to find another uptick. Those four years are the only increases in density since the modern BLS series begins in 1964. Sadly, though, the rise wasn’t the result of any organizing victories. Union membership declined by 2.2% last year—but the pandemic drove down employment even more, 6.7%. As a result, density rose from 10.3% to 10.8%, bringing it back to where it was in… Read More

Union density: yet another low

Preparing to write up the 2019 union density statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, I looked at last year’s and was tempted just to copy–paste. Here’s the lede, as we say in journalism: Union density—the share of employed workers belonging to unions—fell to 10.5% in 2018, the lowest since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began reporting the data in its modern form in 1964, down from 2017’s 10.7%. The only edit I’d have to make in this bit is to change “10.5% in 2018” to “10.3% in 2019.” Similar things could… Read More

Union density update: back to 1900 levels

Sam Gindin pointed me to a history of private sector union density—the percent of workers belonging to unions—going back to 1900. (They’re credit to Troy and Sheflin’ Union Sourcebook, a standard source.) No doubt these numbers are more approximate than recent ones, but here’s a striking fact: 2018’s level, 6.4%, is a hair below 1900’s level, 6.5%. For simplicity’s sake, let’s just say they’re the same. Here’s an update of yesterday’s graph. Back where the 20th century started. That’s 118 years of progress for you.

Union density hits record low

Union density—the share of employed workers belonging to unions—fell to 10.5% in 2018, the lowest since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began reporting the data in its modern form in 1964, down from 2017’s 10.7%. (See graph below.) After rising 0.1 point in 2017, private sector density fell back to match 2016’s 6.4%, the lowest since stats began in 1929. Republican governors’ war on public sector unions is having a visible effect: just 33.9% of government workers belonged to unions last year, the lowest since 1978, when membership was on an upswing—an… Read More

Janus risk

Chris Maisano reminded me on Facebook of something I forgot to mention in today’s union density post—the forthcoming Supreme Court decision in the Janus case. I appended this to the closing paragraph of the original: A major threat to that [getting union density up]: the forthcoming Supreme Court decision in the case of Janus v. AFSCME, which would make public sector union dues optional. Should the Court decide against the union, which is almost certain given the configuration of the cast of robed ghouls, many workers would stop paying dues and not bother to join the… Read More

Shocker: unions hold their own

Unions had a pretty good year in 2017: they didn’t lose any ground. According to the latest edition of the Bureau of Labor Statistics annual survey, released this morning, 10.7% of employed wage and salary workers were members of unions, unchanged from last year. There was a mild uptick in the share of private-sector workers represented by unions (aka union density), from 6.4% to 6.5%. Density was unchanged at 34.4% for public sector workers—mildly surprising, given the war on labor being conducted by Republican governors and legislatures across the country. As the… Read More

Unions continue to fade

After four years of relative stability, union membership resumed its decline in 2016, with overall and private sector membership at record lows, and public sector membership continuing to tumble. The glum story is told by the graph below. Stats released Thursday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that 10.7% of wage and salary workers were union members in 2016, down 0.4 point from 2015. Union density (the term of art) fell 0.3 point to 6.4% in the private sector, and 0.8 in the public, to 34.4%. Overall density is the lowest ever,… Read More

Union density crashes as AFL-CIO dude calls for retiring The Rat

This morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported (Union Membership News Release) that the percentage of U.S. wage and salary workers who were members of unions fell from 11.8% in 2011 to 11.3% in 2012. The total is substantially boosted by public sector workers (who are under heavy attack)—over a third of such workers, 35.9%, are union members (down from 37.0% in 2011), compared with just 6.6% of the private sector (down from 6.9%). In general, the younger the worker, the less likely he or she is to be represented by a… Read More