Union membership drops during 2009

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Union membership is down across the country – but the Bureau of Labor Statistics believes the drop is due to the nation’s high unemployment rate.

During 2009, union members represented 12.3 percent of the work force, slightly lower than the 12.4 percent during 2008. The number dropped to 15.3 million.

Union membership has declined steadily since 1983, the first year statistics were available. That year, 20.1 percent of the work force belonged to a union, and there were 17.7 million union workers.

The union information is collected as part of the Current Population Survey, a monthly sample of about 60,000 households that obtains information on employment.

Other highlights from 2009:
– More public sector employees – 7.9 million – belonged to a union than did private sector employees, despite the fact that there are five times as many workers in the private sector.
– Workers in education, training and library occupations had the highest unionization rate at 38.1 percent.
– Black workers were more likely to be in a union than were white, Asian or Hispanic workers.
– New York has the highest union membership rate at 25.2 percent, while North Carolina had the lowest, at 3.1 percent.
– Average weekly salary for union members was $908, while non-union members earned $710.
– A total of 29 states had union membership below that of the U.S. average, 12.3 percent, while 20 states had higher rates. Six states had union rates lower than 45 percent – South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina and Mississippi.