January 26, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – Organized labor is still struggling to make a comeback in the United States, according a newly issued report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Union membership among wage and salary workers nationwide stood at 11.1 in 2014. That’s actually a 0.2 percentage drop from the previous year.
While the roughly 14.6 million workers who presently constitute the ranks of organized labor has remained largely the same over the last couple of years, it’s a far cry from the 17.7 million workers who belonged to unions in 1983 when comparable union data first became available, and the union membership rate stood at 20.1 percent.
Not surprisingly, New York State boasts the highest concentration of union membership in the country at about 25 percent. Hawaii was not far behind at roughly 23 percent. The worst state for organized labor is North Carolina, where the percentage of wage and salary workers belonging to unions sadly hovers around two percent.
The news coming out of New Jersey was more encouraging. Union density in the Garden State actually rose to 17.2 percent, better than the 16.6 recorded in 2013. About 664,000 New Jersey workers are presently union members.
Charles Wowkanech, president, New Jersey State AFL-CIO, attributed New Jersey’s gains to his organization’s affiliates and their “collective efforts, smart outreach and dedicated organizing” which are helping communities “rebound and grow.”
At the same time, North America’s Building Trades Unions reports that union membership in the nation’s construction trade unions added 53,000 members in 2014.
Sean McGarvey, president of North America’s Building Trades Unions, released a statement saying, “The numbers released today by BLS are an affirmation of the collective efforts by our unions to reposition the union construction industry as a value-centric, preferred vendor-supplier of skilled craft construction labor services in the United States, and as a trusted community partner that is providing hope in the form of career training opportunities for many disadvantaged people, including and especially women, minorities and military veterans.”
Overall, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics finds that the rate of union membership among men is only slightly higher than women. In 2014, the percentage of union men was 11.7, while the percentage of union women was 10.5 percent.
And, according to the report, Black workers were more likely to be union members than were white, Asian or Hispanic workers.
In keeping with tradition, union membership rates among public-sector workers were also found to be more than five times higher than their private sector counterparts.