Card Check and the Rise of Union Membership

By January 29, 2009Labor Unions

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported yesterday that the percentage of employees belonging to unions rose from 12.1 to 12.4 percent of the workforce from 2007 to 2008. (BLS news release.) Government employees are nearly five times more likely to belong to a union than private-sector employees.

The union membership rate for public sector workers (36.8 percent) was substantially higher than the rate for private industry workers (7.6 percent).  Within the public sector, local government workers had the highest union membership rate, 42.2 percent.  This group includes many workers in several heavily unionized occupations, such as teachers,  police officers, and fire fighters.  Private sector industries with high unionization rates include transportation and utilities (22.2 percent), telecommunications (19.3 percent), and construction (15.6 percent).  In 2008, unionization rates were relatively low in financial activities (1.8 percent) and professional and business services (2.1 percent). 

Washington Post story, “American Union Ranks Grow After ‘Bottoming Out”:

To business groups opposing card check, that jump indicates that the government doesn’t need to make it easier to form unions.

“These statistics show that union membership is growing — and that the system works,” said Keith Smith, director of employment and labor policy at the National Association of Manufacturers.

“Organized labor is running ads claiming that current labor laws prevent them from signing up new members. Too bad the facts aren’t cooperating,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce chief legal officer Steven Law blogged yesterday.


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