Center for American Progress

Dormant Union Membership Is a Bad Sign for the Middle Class

Dormant Union Membership Is a Bad Sign for the Middle Class

New Data Show No Union Growth in 2011

Read the full article (CAP Action)

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, data released today on the union status of the American workforce in 2011 show no growth in union membership—a troubling sign as the nation debates how to strengthen the middle class. That’s because unions help strengthen the middle class by giving workers a voice in the economy and our democracy. Yet the fact that union membership didn’t significantly decline—even amid a weak economy and harsh political opposition—is a significant accomplishment and offers some hope for the future.

Overall, the BLS figures show that the union membership rate fell from 11.9 percent in 2010 to 11.8 percent in 2011, but the difference is so small that the rate effectively stayed the same. The total number of union members also stayed constant at approximately 14.8 million. The membership rate is the lowest in more than 70 years, continuing a long decline.

Taking a closer look at the numbers, the number of private-sector workers who are union members slightly increased from 7.1 million in 2010 to 7.2 million in 2011, as the percentage of private-sector workers in unions remained constant at 6.9 percent. In contrast, the number of public-sector workers who are union members fell slightly from 7.62 million to 7.56 million, although due to the sharp cutbacks in state employment, the percentage of unionized public-sector workers actually increased slightly from 36.2 percent to 37 percent.

Read the full article (CAP Action)

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David Madland

Senior Fellow; Senior Adviser, American Worker Project

Nick Bunker

Research Associate