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According to the study, people between the ages of 26 and 37 who are working full time and whose parents did not go to college and were not in a union earn an average of $39,000 today. But a very similar group of people—everything the same except that they had one parent who was in a union—those people are earning $46,000. (The difference all but disappears when comparing people who had a parent who was a college graduate.)
WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez issued the following statement on the department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics report released today on union membership in 2014:
“Today’s report confirms what we’ve always known: that belonging to a union makes a powerful difference in people’s lives, providing greater economic security and helping them punch their ticket to the middle class.
“The 2014 BLS data show that among wage and salary workers, those in a union have median weekly earnings of $970, compared to $763 for those not in a union. That’s not pocket change – it amounts to greater than $10,000 a year more for union members. There is also a smaller gender pay gap for unionized workers – women who are in a union come closer to parity with their male counterparts than do non-union women. The report also finds that the union membership rate was 11.1 percent last year, 35.7 percent for public-sector workers.
“The economy is resurgent, with an unemployment rate well below 6 percent and job growth we haven’t experienced since the late 1990’s. The challenge we face now is creating shared prosperity, ensuring that our growing economy works for everyone. To do that, we need to turn up the volume on worker voice.
“There is a direct link throughout American history between the strength of the middle class and the vitality of the labor movement. It’s not a coincidence. When unions are strong, working families thrive, with wages and productivity rising in tandem. But when the percentage of people represented by unions is low, there is downward pressure on wages and the middle class takes it on the chin.
“President Obama said in the State of the Union that middle-class economics requires ‘laws that strengthen rather than weaken unions, and give workers a voice.’ That means protecting and strengthening collective bargaining rights, and it also means exploring new organizing strategies and other innovative approaches to empowering workers in a modern economy.
“Across the country at the grass-roots level, workers and their advocates are doing just that. Whether it’s auto workers emulating the German works council model, or the dynamic movement of fast-food workers seeking a raise, or efforts by taxi drivers and home health care workers to stand up for their rights, we are seeing more people seeking creative ways to make their voices heard.
“Doing so can and must be done in collaboration with employers. We reject the old false choice and zero-sum thinking – the kind that suggests either workers or their employers can thrive, but not both. Unions succeed not at the expense of business, but in partnership with business. Forward-looking employers recognize that they can give their workers a voice while giving their bottom line a boost.
“To maintain robust economic growth, to create more shared prosperity and a better life for millions of middle-class families, we need full-throated worker voice.”
In 2013 the total number of workers in unions rose by 162,000 compared with 2012, led by an increase of 281,000 workers in private-sector unions. There were strong gains in construction and manufacturing, against a background of strike actions by low-wage workers in the private sector. But destructive, politically motivated layoffs of public-sector workers continued to hurt overall public-sector union membership, leaving the total percentage of the workforce that is unionized virtually unchanged.
“Wall Street’s Great Recession cost millions of America’s workers their jobs and pushed already depressed wages down even further. But in 2013, America’s workers pushed back,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said of the figures released Friday by the Department of Labor. “At the same time, these numbers show that as unorganized workers have taken up the fight for their right to a voice on the job, union employers are hiring—creating good jobs our economy desperately needs.”
Despite the overall gains of 2013, workers in the public sector continued to bear the brunt of the continuing economic crisis, weak labor laws and political assaults on their rights on the job. In Wisconsin, political attacks on public-sector workers’ right to collectively bargain resulted in bargaining coverage falling. Broadly, federal, state and local governments continued to lay off needed public workers, leading to an overall loss of 118,000 union members.
“Make no mistake, the job of rebuilding workers’ bargaining power and raising wages for the 99% has a long way to go,” said Trumka. “Collective action among working people remains the strongest, best force for economic justice in America. We’re building a stronger, more innovative movement to give voice to the values that built this country. From Walmart workers to fast food workers to homecare workers, the rising up of workers’ voices against inequality – both inside and outside of traditional structures – is the story of 2013.”
Key trends include:
The total number of private-sector union members rose by 281,000, while the total number of public-sector union members fell by about 118,000. There are now more private-sector union members than public-sector members.
Industries with the biggest growth include construction (up 95,000), hospitals and Transportation Equipment Manufacturing
Sectors hit hardest include social assistance and administration and support services.
Union membership rates did not change in any meaningful way by gender: 10.5 percent of women and 11.9 percent of men were in unions.
States with the largest union membership rate growth include: Alabama (1.5 percentage points), Nebraska (1.3 points), Tennessee (1.3 points), Kentucky, (1.2 points), New York (1.2 points), Illinois (1.2 points) and Wisconsin (1.1 points).
States with the largest union membership rate declines include: Louisiana (-1.9 percentage points), Oregon (-1.8 points), Utah (-1.3 points), Wyoming (-1.0 points) New Hampshire (-0.9 points), Montana (-0.9 points) and Texas (-0.9 points).
Private sector and public sector union membership fell sharply in 2010, reports The New York Times.
In the domestic private workforce, the percentage of workers represented by unions tumbled to 6.9 percent (from 7.2 percent in 2009), while in the public sector, the percentage dropped to 36.2 percent (from 37.4 percent in 2009), reports the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Private sector union employment is at its lowest point in more than a century, says the BLS.
Total union membership — combined private and public sector — is now at its lowest point in 70 years, or 11.9 percent of the total work force (down from 12.3 percent in 2009), says the BLS.
The good news, reports The New York Times, is that the median weekly earnings for union members is now $917, or $200 more than the median weekly earnings for non-union members. The median separates the highest 50 percent from the lowest 50 percent, meaning half of union workers earn more than $917 weekly and half less than $917 weekly.
States with the highest unionization rate (public and private sectors) are Alaska, Hawaii and New York; the lowest rates being in Arkansas, Georgia and North Carolina, says the BLS.