The number of private and public sector employees who are union members has dropped for the fifth consecutive year, according to a new report.
The annual report from the US Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released on January 23 found that the number of wage and salary workers belonging to a union declined to 14.4 million in 2012 from 14.8 million in 2011. The proportion of unionized workers relative to the overall workforce dropped from 11.8 percent to 11.3 percent.
In its report, the BLS provides specific data on union membership by sector, industry, occupation, member demographics and location. Notable findings include:
Public sector employees had a union membership rate five times higher than private sector employees. Approximately 7.3 million (35.9 percent) public sector employees had a union membership compared with 7 million (6.6 percent) employees in the private sector. See Table 3.
Public sector employees in the education and protective service occupations (police officers and firefighters) had the highest union membership rates. See Table 3.
Private sector employees in the transportation, utilities and construction industries had the highest union membership rates. See Table 3.
Full-time wage and salary employees who were union members had higher median weekly earnings of $943 while non-union employees had median weekly earnings of $742. See Table 2.
Men had a higher union membership rate (12.0 percent) than women (10.5 percent). See Table 1.
States with the highest union membership rates were New York (23.2 percent), Alaska (22.4 percent) and Hawaii (21.6 percent). States with the lowest rates were North Carolina (2.9 percent), Arkansas (3.2 percent) and South Carolina (3.3 percent). See Table 5.
Half of all union members lived in just seven states: California (2.5 million), New York (1.8 million), Illinois (0.8 million), Pennsylvania (0.7 million), Michigan (0.6 million), New Jersey (0.6 million) and Ohio (0.6 million). See Table 5.
Not surprising, two of the states that saw the greatest drop in union membership passed significant labor legislation in 2012. For instance, Michigan, which passed a Right-To-Work law and limited public sector collective bargaining rights this past year, had its union membership decline from 17.5 percent to 16.6 percent. Likewise, Indiana enacted a Right-To-Work law and saw its union membership rate drop from 11.3 percent to 9.1 percent. This downward trend is likely to continue as additional states attempt to limit employees' rights to unionize and bargain collectively.
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