US Bureau of Labor Statistics union membership survey
U.S. workers need a union if they want a raise
Last year US trade union members were $200/£125 a week better off than non-members, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labour Statistics, released on Friday. That stark figure explains why our sister organisation in the USA, the AFLCIO, is calling on President Obama to make the promotion of collective bargaining rights a key element of his State of the Union address on Tuesday night (early Wednesday morning on this side of the pond!)
Other data in the report shows that union membership is growing in the private sector, especially construction and hospitals, but falling in the public sector as jobs are cut by Congress. There are now more union members in the private sector again, although density rates continue to be five times higher in the public sector (35%:7%). New York continued to be the state with most union members, closely followed by California. And full-time workers were twice as likely to be union members than part-time workers.
The full report contains loads more data, although its main conclusion is that union membership isn’t changing much. Private sector membership grew by 281,000 to 7.2 million, while public sector membership fell by 118,000 to 7.1 million. Unionisation rates are slightly higher among older workers (14% of the 45-65 age range are union members compared with 11% overall), and the gap between male and female unionisation rates is now 12%:10.5%, compared with 25%:15% in 1983 when records began.) Sectorally, 35% of workers in education and protective services are in unions, compared with 3% in sales and 2% in agriculture.
But politically, wages are the key issue in the US right now, no different to the UK. And in 2013, among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had average weekly earnings of $950/£575, compared with non-union members on $750/£450. That’s a greater than 25% uplift, which is well worth a union subscription!
And in a country – again, like ours – where workers desperately need a pay rise, that makes the case for getting more people in a union, and overcoming ever-so-slightly rabid employer hostility. In the fast food industry, in particular, unions are calling for a minimum wage hike to $15/£9 an hour, or $600/£360 for a 40 hour week, well below what union members tend to earn. So while minimum wages have their place, what workers in the USA need to get fair pay, is a union card and a union contract.