Union membership numbers for 2019 were released last week from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing that total union membership stayed pretty much the same as 2018 – 14.6 million wage and salary members. But with the number of U.S. jobs increasing, total union membership as a percentage of the U.S. workforce decreased .2 points down to just 10.3% overall. In 1983 union membership made up 20.1% of U.S. jobs with 17.7 million workers belonging to unions at that time.
Total union membership is tracked for both public and private employers. Membership in the public sector (government workers) increased just a bit to 33.6%. This reflected membership of 7.1 million employees. But union membership in the private sector was down to just 6.2% of workers or just 7.5 million workers of the total private sector workforce estimated at 120,960,000 in that sector of the workforce.
States with the highest unionization were reported as Hawaii at 23.5% and New York at 21%. States with the lowest unionization are South Carolina at just 2.2% and its neighbor North Carolina at 2.3%. Michigan came in at 15% - down .4 of a point from 15.4% in 2018 making it the 11th most unionized state as a percentage of union membership in the workforce.
Employment Law Tracker reported more than half of the 14.6 million union members in the U.S. lived in just seven states:
- Pennsylvania, 0.7 million
- New Jersey, Ohio, and Washington, 0.6 million each
The most unionized jobs in the country were protective services (police and fire) followed by education, training, and library services. Lowest unionization rates were in agriculture, fishing, forestry, sales, and followed by food and food service industries. Unions have been trying to organize fast food workers for several years with various campaigns such as the $15/hr. campaign and also lobbying to change joint employment definition to make it easier to organize larger employer entities that are structured under franchise business models.
Other union demographic factoids in this year’s report show:
- Men continued to have a higher union membership rate (10.8%) than women (9.7%).
- Black workers remained more likely to be union members than White, Asian, or Hispanic workers.
- Nonunion workers had median weekly earnings that were 81% of earnings for workers who were union members ($892 versus $1,095). (Note: the comparisons of earnings are on a broad level and do not control for many factors that can be important in explaining earnings differences.)
Sources: BLS Statistical reports Wednesday, January 22, 2020. Employment Law Tracker Little change in 2019 union membership rate overall — LABOR NEWS (Jan. 24, 2020)