In 2014, the union membership rate--the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of unions--was 11.1 percent, down 0.2 percentage point from 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions, at 14.6 million, was little different from 2013. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent, and there were 17.7 million union workers.At The Daily Beast, Daniel DiSalvo writes:
The data on union membership are collected as part of the Current Population Survey(CPS), a monthly sample survey of about 60,000 households that obtains information on employment and unemployment among the nation's civilian noninstitutional population age 16 and over. ...
Highlights from the 2014 data:
--Public-sector workers had a union membership rate (35.7 percent), more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers (6.6 percent). (See table 3.)
--Workers in education, training, and library occupations and in protective service occupations had the highest unionization rate, at 35.3 percent for each occupation group. (See table 3.)
--Men had a higher union membership rate (11.7 percent) than women (10.5 percent) in 2014. (See table 1.)
--Black workers were more likely to be union members than were white, Asian, or Hispanic workers. (See table 1.)
--Median weekly earnings of nonunion workers ($763) were 79 percent of earnings for workers who were union members ($970). (The comparisons of earnings in this release are on a broad level and do not control for many factors that can be important in explaining earnings differences.) (See table 2.)
--Among states, New York continued to have the highest union membership rate (24.6 percent), and North Carolina again had the lowest rate (1.9 percent). (See table 5.)
How does it happen that citizens of modest means suffer as public sector unions gain? A big part of the problem is that many states and cities have been providing more public services and promising to pay for them later by back-loading public employee compensation into retirement. And as the share of state and local budgets devoted to public employee pension and health benefits increases, the latter “crowds out” government spending on parks, education, public safety, and other services on which the poor and middle class rely. Democrats find themselves in the difficult position of defending governments that spend more but do less.
For example, Chicago’s ailing pension system, only 33 percent funded, is the back-story behind the city’s teacher strike last fall, its struggle with a surge in the murder rate in 2012, and the closure of dozens of schools. In New York City, pension, health, and other fringe benefits for city employees constituted 15 percent of the city budget in 2002, but by 2014 those items gobbled up 34 percent of the budget. New York now employs fewer cops, firefighters, and sanitation workers than it did in 2002.