Union membership fell to a record low in 2022

Employees launched a series of high-profile union campaigns in 2022, including at national chains Amazon and Starbucks. The federal agency that oversees the union election, the National Labor Relations Board, reported a 53 percent increase in petitions filed during the fiscal year.

“More than 270,000 American workers joined unions in 2022 and Americans staged a record number of union elections during the year,” said Erika Dinkel-Smith, White House director of Labor Engagement. “President Biden has taken historic steps to help Americans exercise their right to organize and he will continue to work to remove barriers to workers’ ability to exercise their rights in the workplace.”

Union officials pointed to union-busting efforts — not worker disinterest — as the reason for the drop. The House passed a Democratic bill last session, the Protection of the Right to Organize Actthat would have reformed labor law to make it easier for workers to join unions, but the legislation stalled in the Senate.

“In 2022, we saw working people revolt, despite often illegal opposition from companies that would rather pay millions to union-busting companies than let workers sit at the table,” said AFL-CIO Chairman Liz Shuler. “The organizing wave will continue to gain momentum in 2023 and beyond, despite broken labor laws rigging the system against workers.”

Union opponents, on the other hand, hailed the figures as evidence that the ranks of the organized working class are thinning.

“The BLS numbers are another reminder that headlines from cheerleading reporters and clout in the D.C. halls of power are no substitute for actual support among hardworking ordinary American workers,” said Patrick Semmens, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation.

“Union officials are artificially increasing their influence in ways no other private organization can, but they do so while trampling on the rights of the workers they claim to speak for by forcing workers under ‘representation’ they oppose and attempting to coerce workers to pay. or get fired. For an employee considering unionization, that’s not a winning message,” Semmens said.

Unionized workers pay higher wages on average than their non-unionized counterparts. The average weekly income of non-union workers will be 85 percent of that of unionized workers by 2022, according to BLS — though the agency noted that this statistic has no control over other factors that could explain the gap.

Some trends remained unchanged: The membership rate of public sector employees was still more than five times that of private sector employees, at 33.1 percent and 6 percent, respectively. The membership percentage of men (10.5 percent) also remained higher than that of women (9.6 percent). And black workers were more likely to remain unionized than white, Asian, or Hispanic workers.

The BLS report also broke down union membership by occupation. The highest union memberships were among workers in protective service occupations (34.6 percent), such as firefighters, as well as education, training and library jobs (33.7 percent). Those working in the insurance industry; finance; professional and technical services; and the hospitality and drinking establishments had union memberships closer to 1 percent.

Among the states, Hawaii and New York had the highest union memberships at 21.9 percent and 20.7 percent, respectively. South Carolina and North Carolina had the lowest with 1.7 percent and 2.8 percent, respectively.

Both of the latter are so-called right-to-work states, where laws allow workers to opt out of union membership even if their larger workplace is represented by a union. BLS reported on Thursday that about 1.7 million workers are under union contracts despite not paying dues.

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