Trends In Union Membership
The U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that the first increase in total union membership in five years occurred in 1998. Membership in unions increased by 101,000, equaling 16.2 million represented employees overall. When viewed as a percentage of the general workforce, however, union members comprised only 13.9% of employed hourly and salaried workers in 1998, which is down from 14.1% in 1997. When government employees are taken out of the mix, the numbers are even lower, with less than 10% of private sector employees being unionized. In fact, union membership has steadily fallen since the Bureau first began gathering data regarding membership statistics.
Most, if not all, of last year's growth in union membership occurred in the public sector. The Bureau found 6.9 million union members working in all levels of government, which accounts for nearly 38% of total government employment. The number of union members employed in private industries, however, decreased by nearly 50,000. Among union members in private industry, transportation and public utilities employers have the highest unionized rate. Construction was next, followed by manufacturing and mining. Unionization rates were lowest in sales, farming, forestry and fishing occupations.
If your employees begin talking about organizing, you may want to mention these trends to them. In other words, ask them this question: If unions are so great, why have the vast majority of American workers decided to stay union-free?