Union membership in 2010 continued to plummet. The downward trend reflects a steady decline in organized labor's influence since its peak in the 1950's. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently issued a report outlining organized labor's continued decline. Notably, the report provided the following numbers:

  • Union Rolls Shrink: Overall union membership fell to 11.9% in 2010, compared to 12.3% in 2009. In all, unions lost 612,000 members in 2010.
  • Private Sector Decline: Union membership in the private sector fell from 7.2% in 2009 to 6.9% in 2010.
  • Public Sector: Unions continued to hold strong in the public sector where they represent 36.2% of the workforce. Local government workers including teachers, police officers and firefighters had the highest union membership at 42.3%.
  • State-by-State: Union membership rates declined in 33 states and rose in 17 states. In total, 31 states and the District of Columbia had union membership rates below the national average while 19 states had higher rates. Interestingly, BLS reports that about half of all union members live in just six states: California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Jersey.

Some are speculating that organized labor's membership rolls will decline more dramatically in coming years as federal, state, and local budget shortfalls will require politicians to trim the ranks of public sector unionized employees.

Although union membership is on the decline, organized labor continues to aggressively pursue new avenues to grow its membership. Moreover, with the NLRB aggressively pursuing a pro-union agenda — including a proposed rule requiring employers to post notices informing their employees about the right to unionize — union organizing activity is expected to increase in 2011.