Union Membership Increased in 2007, According to Government Stats
"Today's numbers show working people are pushing to form and join unions in order to improve their lives, despite record levels of resistance from employers," AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said. "They know that a union card is the single best ticket into the middle class, especially in today’s economy."
Private sector union membership grew by 133,000 and density grew to 7.5 percent in 2007, the first time private sector density grew since 1979. In construction alone, more than 96,000 members were added last year, bumping union density in that industry to 13.9 percent from 13.0 percent in 2006.
There have been a number of important victories for workers who wanted a union on the job. Those victories include 40,000 childcare workers in Michigan joining the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the United Auto Workers (UAW).
"The news this year is good. Despite losing many manufacturing jobs, workers are adding to labor’s ranks overall and at rates larger than job loss," Michigan AFL-CIO President Mark Gaffney proclaimed. "From healthcare to teaching to the building of airplane components, Michigan’s unions are seeing a turn around in membership."
The largest numbers of union members lived in California (2.5 million) and New York (2.1 million). Nearly half (7.8 million) of the 15.7 million union members in the U.S. lived in 6 states (California, 2.5 million; New York, 2.1 million; Illinois, 0.8 million; Michigan, 0.8 million; Pennsylvania, 0.8 million; and New Jersey, 0.7 million) though these states accounted for only about one-third of wage and salary employment nationally.
The largest increase in union membership was health services, where unions added 142,000 members, a 0.9 percent increase in density from 2006 to 7.9 percent.
Union membership among women grew again in 2007, continuing a trend in recent years. More than 201,000 women joined unions in 2007, nearly twice the number of men. Women now account for 44 percent of all union members, a new high.
The advantages of having a union on the job were clear in 2007. Last year, median weekly pay for union members was $863 while those who were not represented by unions had median weekly earnings of $663.
Much of the growth in 2007 was due to the increase in the number of workers joining or forming unions, reflecting an increased commitment by unions to help workers organize, especially in growing industries.
The manufacturing sector continues to be hard hit due to an overall decline caused in part by trade deals like NAFTA that have shipped millions of American jobs overseas. Manufacturing employment dropped by 287,000 and union membership dropped by 93,000. Union density in manufacturing declined from 11.7 percent to 11.3 percent.
More than 40,000 communications workers joined the Communications Workers of America in the last two years, including more than 20,000 at Cingular (now AT&T Wireless). Last year 50,000 childcare workers in New York joined AFSCME and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). In addition, 6,000 casino dealers in New Jersey and Connecticut joined the UAW and 3,000 administrative staff from Rutgers University joined the AFT and Communications Workers of America.
The growth in union membership comes at a time when workers say they want and need unions more than ever. More than half of all workers – 60 million – say they would join a union tomorrow if given the chance, according to independent research by Peter Hart Research Associates.