BLS Data Shows Increase in Union Membership


February 2018


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Union membership was on the rise in 2017, according to the latest annual report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. As stated in the report, union membership in the U.S. grew by 262,000 last year, to 14.817 million, while union density stayed at 10.7 percent.


Unionists’ wage advantage over their non-union colleagues grew again, according to the BLS, which issued its report in mid-January. The median wage for unionist members in 2017 was $1,041, compared to $829 for unrepresented workers. And the wage gap between working men and women was, as usual, smaller for union workers, at 88 percent of the average male union wage ($970 for women, $1,102 for men.)


The data showed that last year, 11.4 percent of working men and 10 percent of working women belonged to a union. Those percentages are much higher in the public sector, where 34.4 percent of government employees are protected by a union. In the transportation industry, 17.3 percent of workers were union in 2017. As shown in the BLS report, union membership also increased among younger people, with 877,000 union members between the ages of 16 and 24 and 3 million members between 25 and 34.


According to the report, union density rose in Michigan, Minnesota and South Carolina, and declined slightly in Missouri – though the legislation that would have brought so-called “right to work” laws to Missouri has stalled thanks to grassroots political efforts. The most unionized states in 2017 were still New York and Hawaii, at 23.8 and 21.3 percent, respectively. The report reaffirmed that most union members are still concentrated in the Northeast, the Great Lakes and the Pacific Coast, though gains are being made in other states.


The AFL-CIO, of which the SIU is a member, hailed these latest numbers as a victory, saying that the increase in union members “reflects critical organizing victories across a range of industries, which have reaped higher wages, better benefits, and a more secure future for working people around the country.”


“In the face of a challenging year, the power of working people is on the rise,” said AFLCIO President Richard Trumka. “Together, we organized historic new unions, stood up to powerful corporations, and won higher wages.... But today’s data is more than numbers on a page; it’s a growing movement of working people that can’t be measured as easily. When more union members fill the halls of power, when wages rise and inequality shrinks, and when a growing number of people see that we can and will change the rules of this economy – that’s when you’ll know unions are on the rise.”



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