Union members earn more than unorganized workers

The union membership rate–the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of unions–was unchanged at 10.7 percent in 2017, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today, but that level is about half the enrollment organized labor boasted during the Reagan administration.

The number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions, at 14.8 million in 2017, edged up by 262,000 from 2016. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the
union membership rate was 20.1 percent and there were 17.7 million union workers.

Highlights from the data show:

–The union membership rate of public-sector workers (34.4 percent) continued to be more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers (6.5 percent).

–Workers in protective service occupations and in education, training, and library occupations had the highest unionization rates (34.7 percent and 33.5 percent, respectively).

–Men continued to have a higher union membership rate (11.4 percent) than women (10.0 percent).

–Black workers remained more likely to be union members than White, Asian, or Hispanic workers.

–Nonunion workers had median weekly earnings that were 80 percent of those for workers who were union members ($829 versus $1,041).

–Among states, New York has the highest union membership rate (23.8 percent), while South Carolina continued has the lowest (2.6 percent).

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

Working people remain resilient and strong despite “relentless, dishonest attacks from wealthy special interests,” AFSCME President Lee Saunders said today in response to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report showing that last year’s union-membership rate was unchanged from 2016.

The report shows how working people “continue to come together for a voice on the job and a seat at the table,” Saunders said in a statement.

“It’s no surprise that they value unions – as the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ annual report shows, union workers earn considerably more on average than their non-union peers,” Saunders said. “Women and communities of color, for whom unions have historically been a pathway to the middle class, enjoy an even greater pay advantage when they join unions.”

Yet, corporate CEOs and billionaires are teaming up to “use the courts to rig the system even more in their favor, chipping away further at the rights of working people,” Saunders warned.

Janus v. AFSCME, a case the U.S. Supreme Court will decide this year, “threatens the freedom of public service workers to negotiate a fair return for the value they add to their communities,” Saunders said.

“No matter what happens,” he added, “public service workers and all working people will continue to build power in numbers and stick together in strong unions.”

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