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May 2013 - Volume 21, Number 2


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Ten Things You Should Know
About Union Membership Numbers

by Mike Antonucci
Education Intelligence Agency


The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its annual report on union membership in mid-January, and the news was pretty grim. Importantly, while the economy added almost 2.4 million jobs in 2012, union membership was down by almost 400,000. Digging through the data led to several more interesting discoveries.


1) Since 2008, private-sector unions have lost more than 1.2 million members – almost equivalent to losing the entire rank-and-file of the Teamsters.


2) All of the government jobs lost since 2008 were added in the three-year period 2005-2008.


3) Almost half of all union members work in just seven states – California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Jersey, and Ohio – though these states employ only about one-third of the U.S. workforce.


4) Union membership increased in 14 states and the District of Columbia. Of these, only five added more than 10,000 members (California, Georgia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Texas).


5) Local government workers, such as teachers, police officers, and firefighters, is by far the most unionized sector of the American workforce.


6) Members of the two national teachers’ unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, comprise more than 25 percent of all union members in the United States, and just under half of all public-sector union members.


7) About 42 percent of U.S. workers are 45 years of age or older. Almost 52 percent of union members are.


8) If unions were able to organize all the workers at Wal-Mart, by far America’s largest employer, it would only raise the unionized share of the private-sector workforce to 8.5 percent – less than the share they had in 2002.


9) If the trends recorded since 2000 continue, by 2051 there will be 8 million union members in the United States – 6.6 percent of the total workforce – and they will all work for the government.


10) Five million of them will be teachers.


Reprinted with the author’s permission, originally published by the Education Intelligence Agency, January 28, 2013, <>.


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