The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that, during 2008, union membership increased from 12.1 to 12.4 percent of American workers. 16.1 million workers now belong to unions. Statistics show a wide range of union members in privately-owned companies and in the public sector. In the public sector, 36.8% of workers are union members, whereas only 7.6% of workers in the private sector are members of unions. In the private sector, the highest percentage of union members is in transportation and utilities (22.2%), telecommunications (19.3%) and construction (15.6%) industries.
States in the north had higher rates of union members than states in the south. For example, Illinois had approximately 900,000 union members, half as many as New York and one-third as many as in California. The number of union members in Michigan and Ohio was only slightly lower than in Illinois. The lowest percentage of union membership was in Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Georgia and North and South Carolina, each with less than 4.6% of their work forces.
These statistics were announced at the same time that unions are promoting the Employee Fair Choice Act, an amendment to the National Labor Relations Act. Under EFCA, employees may choose to be represented by a union without a secret ballot election. Passage of EFCA will limit the ability of employers and employees who do not want to be in a union to explain the advantages and disadvantages of unionization. Employers should be aware of EFCA and take action now to analyze their vulnerability to unions and to take action to avoid unions.