New Report: Gov Workers in Love with Unions

Government Worker

The Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday released its report on the state of organized labor in America and the news is not good as the steady slide in union membership continues from a high of 20.1 percent in 1983 – the first year the Department of Labor began compiling data on the union membership rate.

In 2014, the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of unions was 11.1 percent, down 0.2 percentage point from 2013. The number of American belonging to unions was 14.6 million – about the same as 2013.

Quoting the report:

“The data on union membership are collected as part of the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly sample survey of about 60,000 households that obtains information on employment and unemployment among the nation’s civilian non-institutional population age 16 and over.”

Highlights from the 2014 report:

  • Public-sector workers had a union membership rate (35.7 percent), more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers (6.6 percent).
  • Workers in education, training, and library occupations and in protective service occupations had the highest unionization rate at 35.3 percent.
  • Men had a higher union membership rate (11.7 percent) than women (10.5 percent) in 2014.
  • Black workers were more likely to be union members than were white, Asian, or Hispanic workers.
  • Among the states, New York continued to have the highest union membership rate (24.6 percent), and North Carolina again had the lowest rate (1.9 percent).

Industry and Occupation of Union Members

In 2014, 7.2 million employees in the public sector belonged to a union, compared with 7.4 million workers in the private sector.

Within the public sector, the union membership rate was highest for local government (41.9 percent), which includes employees in heavily unionized occupations, such as teachers, police officers, and firefighters.

In the private sector, industries with high unionization rates included utilities (22.3 percent), transportation and warehousing (19.6 percent), telecommunications (14.8 percent), and construction (13.9 percent).

Selected Characteristics of Union Members

The union membership rate was higher for men (11.7 percent) than for women (10.5 percent) in 2014. The gap between their rates has narrowed considerably since 1983, when rates for men and women were 24.7 percent and 14.6 percent, respectively.

Among major race and ethnicity groups, black workers had a higher union membership rate in 2014 of (13.2 percent) than workers who were white (10.8 percent), Asian (10.4 percent), or Hispanic (9.2 percent).

By age, the union membership rate was highest among workers ages 45 to 64 – 13.8 percent for those ages 45 to 54 and 14.1 percent for those ages 55 to 64.

The union membership rate was 12.3 percent for full-time workers, more than twice the rate for part-time workers, 5.8 percent.

Union Representation

In 2014, 16.2 million wage and salary workers were represented by a union. This group includes both union members (14.6 million) and workers who report no union affiliation but whose jobs are covered by a union contract (1.6 million).

Union Membership by State

In 2014, 30 states and the District of Columbia had union membership rates below that of the U.S. average, 11.1 percent, 19 states had rates above it, and 1 state had a rate equal to that of the nation.

All states in the East South Central and West South Central divisions had union membership rates below the national average, and all states in the Middle Atlantic and Pacific divisions had rates above it.

Union membership rates declined over the year in 27 states and the District of Columbia, rose in 18 states, and were unchanged in 5 states.

Nine states had union membership rates below 5.0 percent in 2014, with North Carolina having the lowest rate at 1.9 percent. The next lowest rates were in South Carolina at 2.2 percent and Mississippi and Utah at 3.7 percent each. Three states had union membership rates over 20.0 percent in 2014: New York at 24.6 percent, Alaska at 22.8 percent and Hawaii at 21.8 percent.

The largest numbers of union members lived in California, 2.5 million and New York, 2.0 million. Over half of the 14.6 million union members in the U.S. lived in just seven states – California, 2.5 million, New York, 2.0 million, Illinois, 0.8 million, Pennsylvania, 0.7 million, and Michigan, New Jersey, and Ohio at about 0.6 million each.

States with the highest rates of public union membership also carried the most debt including California ($778 billion), Illinois ($321 billion), Ohio ($321 billion) and New York at ($387 billion) according to State Budget Solutions – a non-partisan, non-profit, national public policy organization with the mission to change the way state and local governments do business.