The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, February 12, 2016

Union membership share flat in 2015

By The Building Tradesman

By Mark Gruenberg
Press Associates

WASHINGTON (PAI) - The share of union members as a percentage of the U.S. workforce remained the same in 2015 vs. 2014: 11.1 percent.

The U.S. bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Jan. 28 that unions had 14.795 million members last year, rising by a modest 219,000 workers.

Given the nearly steady decline of union membership numbers since the early 1980s, flat membership numbers could be perceived as a good thing. Especially, given new right-to-work laws in Michigan and Indiana, and a steep drop in union membership numbers after anti-union legislation was adopted in Wisconsin.

"You've got a labor movement that's not moving," said Gary Chaison, a professor of industrial relations at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., to the Wall Street Journal. "It's a failure to be revitalized."

Membership increases occurred even as unions battle right wing politicians and their business backers over the right to organize in several other states. The survey showed unionists still concentrate in the Northeast, the Great Lakes and the Pacific Coast, and are fewest in the anti-union South. The most union-heavy states are New York and Hawaii. And the federal numbers showed female union workers are close to pay parity with union men.

U.S. construction union membership stood at 13.2 percent in 2015, down from 13.9 percent in 2014.

Public workers are still five times more likely to be unionized (35.2 percent) than private-sector workers (6.7 percent), with teachers and public safety workers leading the way. Public and private densities changed little from 2014. The public sector added 23,000 unionists, to 7.241 million last year, slightly fewer than the 7.554 million private-sector unionists.

Following are a few other numbers from the survey:

*Union members widened their salary edge over their nonunion colleagues: The median weekly wage for unionists -- the point where half are above and half below -- was $204 higher than for nonunion workers.

*The median weekly wage for union women was $928, up $24 in a year. The median weekly wage for nonunion women last year was $697, up $10.

*The median weekly wage for union men was $1,017, up $2. It was 80.2 percent of the men’s median ($869, up $29).

*Washington, D.C. and 24 states saw increases in union density last year, while 23 states saw declines. The other three states had no change.

*The biggest jumps were in Florida (+91,000), New York and North Carolina (both +47,000), BLS calculated. North Carolina’s increase was so large that union numbers rose by 60 percent there, pulling it out of last place among states. Rabidly anti-union South Carolina now has the least union density.