There has been a ripple of articles across US news sources in the last year or so suggesting a possible resurgence in US labor unions membership, including stories about union membership drives at some Starbucks stores, at an Amazon warehouse, and among graduate students at some universities. But for an overall picture, here are the most recent annual numbers on US union membership from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (January 19, 2023):
The union membership rate—the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of unions— was 10.1 percent in 2022, down from 10.3 percent in 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions, at 14.3 million in 2022, increased by 273,000, or 1.9 percent, from 2021. However, the total number of wage and salary workers grew by 5.3 million (mostly among nonunion workers), or 3.9 percent. This disproportionately large increase in the number of total wage and salary employment compared with the increase in the number of union members led to a decrease in the union membership rate. The 2022 unionization rate (10.1 percent) is the lowest on record. In 1983, the first year where comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent and there were 17.7 million union workers.
Here are a few additional facts about US labor union membership from the BLS:
- The union membership rate of public-sector workers (33.1 percent) continued to be more than five
times higher than the rate of private-sector workers (6.0 percent). …
- The highest unionization rates were among workers in protective service occupations (34.6 percent)
and in education, training, and library occupations (33.7 percent). …
- In 2022, 7.1 million employees in the public sector belonged to unions, about the same as in the privatesector (7.2 million)….
- Industries with high unionization rates included utilities (19.6 percent), motion pictures and sound recording industries (17.3 percent), and transportation and warehousing (14.5 percent). Low unionization rates occurred in insurance (1.2 percent), finance (1.3 percent), professional and technical services (1.3 percent), and food services and drinking places (1.4 percent).
- Among occupational groups, the highest unionization rates in 2022 were in protective service occupations (34.6 percent) and in education, training, and library occupations (33.7 percent). Unionization rates were lowest in sales and related occupations (3.0 percent); computer and mathematical occupations (3.3 percent); food preparation and serving related occupations (3.6 percent); and management occupations (3.8 percent). …
- Among major race and ethnicity groups, Black workers continued to have a higher union membership rate in 2022 (11.6 percent) than White workers (10.0 percent), Asian workers (8.3 percent), and Hispanic workers (8.8 percent).
For some recent posts on unionization and possibilities for other types of organized voice for labor, see:
- US Unions and Alternative Voices for Labor” (September 5, 2022)
- “Alternative Choices for US Labor Market Institutions” (December 14, 2022)