US unions record fastest growth since 1983
US unions grew by nearly half a million members in 2008 according to the latest US Government figures, increasing the rate of unionisation from 12.1% to 12.4% in a year. It’s their best year for a quarter of a century, and the main reason seems to be that in some states, it got easier to join, which suggests that the hoped-for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act could make an enormous difference. Hat tip to Mike Hall on the AFLCIO blog for cheering me up this evening!
There are endless fascinating facts and figures in the full report, but here are a few for the statistics junkies:
- the most unionised state in the USA is New York, with 24% unionisation and 2 million members (there are 2.7 million trade unionists in California, but the workforce is bigger. But union members account for only 3.5% of the workforce in North Carolina – there are clear geographical divides in unionisation rates, suggesting that for trade unions, the USA is actually two countries – or three: one in the North/North East, one on the Pacific coast (even Alaska has higher than average unionisation rates) and one in the South and Mid-West; and
- men are still more likely to be union members than women (unlike the UK), but the gap is now much smaller than it was 25 years ago (13.4% to 11.4%, compared to a 10% gap in 1983). And black workers are more likely (14.5%) to be union members than Asians or Hispanics (10.6% each) – white workers are in between at 12.2%.
This good news comes hard on the heels of media reports that the split in the US labor movement between the AFLCIO and Change to Win may be coming to an end (much sooner than any but the most optimistic observers expected) with an added boost that the 3 million strong National Educational Association (the American Federation of Teachers is already part of the AFLCIO) might join too!
But there are still big struggles ahead. Hilda Solis, Obama’s nominee for Secretary for Labor, is facing opposition from Republican Senators, and the EFCA still needs to get through both the House of Representatives and the Senate.