Employment Law Report

Government Reports Union Membership Again is Declining

By Edwin S. Hopson

On January 23, 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that in 2012, the union membership rate again dropped over prior year levels.

According to BLS, the overall percent of wage and salary workers who were members of a union was 11.3% as compared to 11.8% in 2011.  The total number of persons holding union membership also declined to 14,400,000.  It was noted that in 1983—the first year BLS began tracking union membership in this way—the union membership rate was 20.1% and total members were 17,700,000.

The union membership rate for private sector workers dropped to only 6.6%.  Public-sector employees in 2012 had a union membership rate of 35.9%.

According to BLS, about half of the 14,400,000 total union members in the U.S. live in just 7 states:  California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Jersey, and Ohio, though these 7 states account for only about one-third of wage and salary employment nationally.

The union membership rates for the following states in 2012 were:

Kentucky: 10%

Tennessee: 4.8%

Indiana: 9.1%

Mississippi: 4.3%

As noted in recent years, the number of public sector workers who are union members exceeds the number private sector union members.