Commentary | Unions and Labor Standards

Union Representation Share Grew in the Private Sector

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Reacting to new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on union membership, EPI President Lawrence Mishel said:

“New data for 2013 on the number and share of workers with union coverage show some interesting trends. Private sector union coverage increased but was offset by an erosion in the public sector, leaving overall union coverage essentially unchanged (a decline of less than 0.1 percent, so rounding up becomes a 0.1 percent decline).  The increase in private sector collective bargaining coverage in 2013 is noteworthy because it happened in 2007 and 2008 but otherwise hasn’t happened since 1979. This was driven by increased union employment in manufacturing and construction, where more than thirty-five percent of net new jobs were covered by collective bargaining agreements. Union coverage has increased in some states that may be unexpected. For instance, private sector union coverage increased in each of the last two years in Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee.

“Improvements in the private sector have been offset, however, by erosion in the public sector. Between 2012 and 2013 union coverage in the public sector fell from 39.6 to 38.7 percent. The starkest change was in Wisconsin, where union coverage in the public sector fell from 53.4 percent in 2011 to just 37.6 percent in 2013. This suggests that the erosion of public sector union coverage reflects the new anti-collective bargaining policies implemented in several states.”

Note that the EPI analysis highlights people represented by unions as opposed to people who are union members because in the labor market, people who are represented by unions but are not union members nevertheless receive the benefits of union representation in pay and benefits.

 


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