Union membership has been on a steady decline in recent years, but grew in 2013 for the first time since 2008. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently outlined this growth in its annual report on union membership. Notably, the report provided the following information:

  • Total Increase: Total union membership grew from approximately 14.36 million in 2012 to 14.53 million in 2013. Although total membership increased, the percentage of union members in the U.S. workforce stayed the same in 2013 as it was in 2012: 11.3 percent.
  • Private Sector Gains: The private sector was the catalyst for this growth. Unionized workers in the private sector increased by approximately 277,000, bringing the 2013 total to 7.3 million. This is the highest number of unionized workers in the private sector since 2009.
  • Public Sector Decline: By contrast, union membership in the public sector fell by around 120,000, representing a 1.6 percent decrease from 2012. Moreover, the total number of unionized workers in the private sector (7.3 million) topped those in the public sector (7.2 million). Despite the public sector's small decline in union membership, 35.3 percent of all public workers are union members as compared to 6.6 percent in the private sector.
  • State-by-State: Union membership rates declined in 26 states and rose in 22 states and the District of Columbia. In total, 30 states and the District of Columbia had union membership rates below the national average while 20 states had higher rates. Interestingly, BLS reports that about half of all union members live in just seven states: California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Jersey and Ohio.

As we informed you in a prior alert about the National Labor Relations Board's statistics regarding representation elections in 2013, employers need to remain wary of union organizing efforts and stay vigilant in their efforts to maintain positive relations between employees and management. Due to the likelihood that the NLRB will reissue its proposed speedy election rule, which will aid unions in their efforts to organize non-union workforces, 2014 might see additional gains in private sector union membership.