Supervisors need training on how to respond when an employee asks if a union is a good idea for the company. Supervisors have the right to tell the truth to employees. Thus, one response is to give information about the percentage of workers who are actually members of unions and to note that the percentage is falling every year.

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (“BLS”) released the latest statistics on January 21, 2011. The BLS announced that the percentage of all employees in privately-owned companies dropped to only 6.9% of the workforce. For the entire workforce – including both privately-owned companies and governmental (i.e., public sector) agencies, the percentage of workers who were members of a union dropped from 12.3% to 11.9% (36.2% of workers in the public sector were members of unions, including police, fire and first responders.) From 1983, when 17.7 million workers were union members (20.1%), the total number declined to 14.7 million workers during 2010.

Demographically, more black workers were union members than members of other ethic and racial categories. More men than women were union members and the highest rate of membership was among workers 55 to 64 years of age. In addition, states in the Northeast and Midwest continued to have more union members than states in the southern and western parts of the United States. The State of Alaska had the second-highest union membership rate at 24.8%, eclipsed only by the State of New York (26.0%). North Carolina, with 4.9% had the lowest percentage of workers represented by unions. Examining different industries, the highest percentage of union workers was in the utilities industry (30.3%), the lowest was in food service and drinking (1.3%) and 11.6% of workers in manufacturing were represented by unions.

The good news for unions was that the median weekly earnings for union members were $200 more than for non-union members. For union members, the median weekly earnings were $917, but the median weekly earnings for non-union members were $717.