From the TUC

US unions record fastest growth since 1983

28 Jan 2009, By

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.

2 Responses to US unions record fastest growth since 1983

  1. XpertHR – Employment Intelligence
    Jan 29th 2009, 3:18 pm

    Why the recession is good news for the unions…

    The recession of the early 1980s decimated the trade union movement in this country. Indeed, it is not too much of a push to argue that some of the economic policies pursued by government at the time were intended to……

  2. Brian
    Jan 30th 2009, 10:30 pm

    From the words of President Barack Obama

    ‘I also believe that we have to reverse many of the policies towards organized labor that we’ve seen these last eight years, policies with which I’ve sharply disagreed. I do not view the labor movement as part of the problem, to me it’s part of the solution. We need to level the playing field for workers and the unions that represent their interests, because we know that you cannot have a strong middle class without a strong labor movement. We know that strong, vibrant, growing unions can exist side by side with strong, vibrant and growing businesses.

    To hear the president of the United States give such strong backing to organized labor,makes me wonder will Mr Brown and Lord Mandelson do the same?
    I aint gonna hold my breath,but Im very happy for our cousins across the pond!!