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Both percentage and number of union members decline

02.15.13

FEBRUARY 2013, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

Both percentage and number of union members decline

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, February 2nd- According to figures provided by the federal government, union membership in 2012 plummeted to the lowest level of percentage of American workers since World War II and have decreased in total numbers.

The major reason for the drop was largely due to job losses in public-sector jobs and the decline of attempts by the labor community to organize more workers. Both public-sector jobs have declined in 2012 and the number of representation petitions filed by organized labor has dropped from 2011.

The United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the percentage of American workers represented by labor unions fell to 11.3 percent last year, the biggest drop in six years.

Public-sector union membership rate in 2012 decreased to 35.9 percent from 37 percent, a steeper decrease than the private-sector drop to 6.6 percent from 6.9 percent.

The biggest reason public-sector jobs declined was because of cut-backs along all sectors of governments, but mainly state and local governments.

Overall, union membership fell by around 400,000 workers to 14.4 million with more than half the loss 240,000 coming from government workers, including firefighters, teachers, and public administrators.

In 1935 union membership was 13.2 percent and after President Franklin Roosevelt signed into law the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct), which provided labor organizations stronger rules for union organizing, more workers became union represented. In the 1950’s approximately 1 of every 3 workers were in a labor union. By 1983, around 20 percent of American workers were union members.

In recent years the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation have pointed-out that while the percentage of workers have declined the actual number of workers represented by labor organizations remained about the same. Because of the increase of the workforce the percentage would decline but the total number of members would remain about the same or rise.

Michele Kessler, Secretary-Treasurer of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union Local 1776 in Pittston, said not all of the 2012 news regarding union membership was bad.

The number of union membership is growing among non-white workers that are now just beginning to show meaningful job growth, she said.