Center for American Progress

RELEASE: What It Will Take To Increase Union Membership and Collective Bargaining
Press Release

RELEASE: What It Will Take To Increase Union Membership and Collective Bargaining

Washington, D.C. — Despite the growing number of workers trying to form unions and public support for unions at the highest it has been in decades, union membership is likely to remain stagnant at 10 percent when the U.S. Department of Labor releases new data later this month. A new column from the Center for American Progress highlights how workers over the past 100 years have been able to successfully join unions when public policy supported their efforts and shares recommendations for what Congress can do to support an increase in union membership.

In 2023, nearly 1 million unionized workers secured double-digit percentage wage increases by renegotiating their contracts in many fields, such as the auto industry, in Hollywood, at casinos, and in hospitals. Yet these grassroots wins have failed to translate into significant increases in membership as a share of the workforce because U.S. labor law hinders workers from achieving their goals of forming unions and bargaining collectively. The new CAP column reviews union density data since 1890 to demonstrate the impact of pro-labor policies and makes the case for how Congress can help support workers’ efforts by passing the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, and other key reforms to ensure that workers have strong rights, incentives to join unions, and a clear path for collective bargaining. 

“Workers are demonstrating they want unions and collective bargaining, but so far, their efforts have not led to significant increases because the law works against workers,” said David Madland, senior fellow and senior adviser to the American Worker Project at CAP. “Continued worker action and new federal policy reforms are needed for union membership and collective bargaining to significantly increase.”

Read the column: “What It Will Take To Increase Union Membership and Collective Bargaining Coverage” by David Madland 

For more information or to speak with an expert, please contact Sarah Nadeau snadeau@americanprogress.org.

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