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Unions Made Organizing Gains In the Private Sector in 2013

Volume 2, Issue 4
February 28th, 2014
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Union membership grew in 2013 for the first time since 2008 – and most of those gains came from private sector employers instead of the public sector, reversing the trend seen in recent years.

Ballot-BoxThe Bureau of Labor Statistics said total union membership grew from 14.36 million in 2012 to 14.53 million in 2013. Although total membership rose, the overall percentage of union members in the workforce – 11.3% — was the same as it had been in 2012.

Union workers in the private sector increased by approximately 277,000, bringing the 2013 total to 7.3 million, which was the highest number in the private sector since 2009.

By contrast, union membership in the public sector fell by around 120,000, representing a 1.6% decrease from 2012. In addition, the total number of unionized workers in the private sector (7.3 million) topped those in the public sector (7.2 million).

Despite the public sector’s small decline in union membership, 35.3% of all public workers are union members as compared to 6.6% in the private sector.

Union membership rates declined in 26 states and rose in 22 states and the District of Columbia. In 30 states and DC membership rates were below the national average while 20 states were higher.

About half of all union members live in just seven states: California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Jersey and Ohio.

National Labor Relations Board said unions enjoyed greater success in elections and a slowdown in decertification votes in the first half of 2013. Unions won 64.7% of the time in the transportation, communications and utilities industries; 80% in finance, real estate and insurance; 70.7% in construction; and 66% in health care services.

The only industry where unions lost more often than they won in the first half of 2013 was retail, where they lost 55.8% of those elections.

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