US unions growing in private sector
The latest figures from the USA show that trade union membership is up over the last year, despite the difficult economic conditions, continuing anti-union activism by the Republicans, and – and this is perhaps the most interesting element of the statistics – a decline in the number of trade union members in the public sector. As well as the increase in union numbers in the private sector, union density in the public sector has gone up despite the number of members going down – a result of the reduction in public sector jobs.
The AFLCIO reported that:
“Overall union membership increased by 49,000 from 2010 to 2011, including 15,000 new 16- to 24-year-old members, according to new U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data out this morning. An increase of 110,000 in the private sector was partially offset by a decline of 61,000 in the public sector, making the rate of union membership essentially unchanged at 11.8 percent, with some 14.8 million U.S. workers union members. Public-sector density increased from 36.2 percent to 37 percent though November 2011. Private-sector union membership remains at 6.9 percent. The largest increases in union membership were in construction, health care services, retail trade, primary metals and fabricated metal products, hospitals, transportation and warehousing.”
Workers in education, training, and library occupations had the highest unionization rate, at 36.8 percent, while the lowest rate occurred in sales and related occupations (3.0 percent). Among states, New York continued to have the highest union membership rate (24.1 percent) and North Carolina again had the lowest rate (2.9 percent). In 2011, among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had median usual weekly earnings of $938, while those who were not union members had median weekly earnings of $729.
In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent and there were 17.7 million union workers.