The union membership statistics for 2009 suggest that organized labor has lost ground over the past year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ report on annual union membership, private sector unions lost 834,000 members in 2009, bringing membership down to 7.2 percent of the private sector workforce (compared to 7.6 percent in 2008). Overall union membership, however, held steady at 12.3 percent in 2009. This was largely due to public sector union membership, which rose slightly from 36.8 percent in 2008 to 37.4 percent last year.
The total number of union members declined in 2009 by 771,000 members to a total of 15.3 million across the country (51.5 percent of which were employed by the government). The unionization rate dropped in several industries including manufacturing (from 12.3 percent in 2008 to 11.9 percent in 2009), construction (from 16.2 percent to 15 percent), and the information sector (from 13.7 percent to 11.2 percent). Unionization in the transportation and utility industries remained unchanged from 2008 to 2009 at 23.4 percent, which represents the highest rate of any broad industry sector.
Note: This article was published in the January/February 2010 issue of The Employment Law Authority.