Despite the National Labor Relations Board’s “quickie election” rule, the percentage of unionized workers in the private sector remained essentially stable 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor.
Only 6.5 percent of private-sector workers were in unions in 2017, an increase of 0.1 percent over the previous year. As expected, public-sector employees had a much higher union membership rate: 34.4 percent.
According to the report, men (11.0 percent) had a slightly higher union membership rate than women (10.0 percent). Among states, New York had the highest union membership rate (23.8 percent), while South Carolina had the lowest (2.6 percent). Among race and ethnicity groups, Black workers had the highest union membership rate (12.6 percent), followed by White (10.6 percent), Hispanic (9.3 percent), and Asian (8.9 percent) workers.
Union membership rates were highest for workers over age 45: 13.2 percent of workers between ages 45-54 were unionized, and 13.5 percent of workers aged 55-64 were union members. Aside from the public sector, industries with the highest percentage of union membership in 2017 were utilities (23.0 percent), transportation and warehousing (17.3 percent), telecommunications (16.1 percent), and construction (14.0 percent).
Despite the stagnant union membership rate, in a January 19 press release, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said the “power of working people is on the rise.” While claiming “critical organizing victories over a range of industries,” Trumka maintained that the BLS figures were “more than numbers on a page, it’s a growing movement of working people that can’t be measured as easily.”
Both unionized and union-free employers should be aware of local, industry, occupation, and other union membership trends.