BLS Reports 2023 Union Membership Down… Again - American Society of Employers - Michael Burns

BLS Reports 2023 Union Membership Down… Again

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported union membership continued to decline in 2023. The BLS reported that private sector union membership increased by 191,000 members during the year. Union representation was 11.2% of workers in 2023 down from 11.3% in 2022.

Private sector union representation increased from 6.8% to 6.9% while private sector union membership was steady at 6%.

Union membership is calculated as a percentage of the total U.S. workforce so overall employment increases could have worked to keep the percentage increase of union membership number lower.

Overall union membership declined to 10% of the workforce last year down from 10.1% in 2022. This calculation comes from averaging both private and public sector union membership.

What is the difference between union membership and union representation in the BLS report you ask? Workers represented by a union include both union members and workers who report no union affiliation but whose jobs are covered by a union contract. The number of those “unaffiliated” workers is estimated at about 1.8 million jobs.

The percentage of public union employees as a percent of the total government workforce came in at 32.5%. A much larger segment of that governmental workforce (public employers- federal, state, county and municipal) are union members. In some quarters this high level of union membership in government is concerning given the level of bureaucratic control and authority that resides in those union positions.

Other unionization factoids of interest:

Industries with highest unionization rates included:

               Utilities (19.9%)

               Transportation and Warehousing (15.9%)

               Educational services (12.9%)

               and Motion Picture and Sound Recording industries (12.1%)

Low unionization rates occurred in:

               Finance (1.2%),

               Professional and Technical services (1.3%),

               Food services and Drinking places (1.4%)

               Insurance (1.5%)

Unionization of women as well as men was pretty constant year over year with 9.5% (women) and 10.5% (men) reported as in a union.  Black workers had a higher union membership rate at 11.8% with White workers at 9.8%, Asian workers at 7.8%, and Hispanic workers at 9%. These membership rates were little changed from 2022.

Older workers ages 45 to 54 were the highest union membership rate at 12.6%. Younger workers ages 16 -24 were the lowest unionized age bracket demographic this year at just 4.4%. This last number seems a bit counter intuitive given widespread reports that union support is greatest among young workers. On one hand, this may mean this age group may not have exercised their beliefs so much yet. On the other hand, it gives the union movement promise and should give non-union employers pause.

Also. Michigan’s union rate saw membership decline from 14% in 2022 to 12.8% in 2023. Its union representation rate dropped from 15.3% in 2022 to 14.1% in 2023.

Despite, or perhaps because of the continued stagnation of union organization, the NLRB continues to modify its union election rules and procedures to benefit labor organization. Last summer the NLRB in its CEMEX decision held that if the employer was found to have committed any unfair labor practices it could override a union election and declare that the employer must bargain. This, along with a very pro-labor President as well as general support from the media, means we may see union membership start to climb in 2024.

ASE advises employers that in order to stay union free they must stay vigilant about their employee relations and most importantly train their supervisors and managers on labor law, union free employment relations practices, and proper leadership principles.


Source: BLS Union Membership (Annual) News Release (1/23/2024)

Please login or register to post comments.


Filter by Authors

Position your organization to THRIVE.

Become a Member Today