October 20, 2019

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Report: Union Representation Numbers Remain Low

Once again, the percentage of private sector union-represented workers fell – to 6.4% in 2018, from 6.5% in 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor.

Highlights from the “Union Members – 2018” report include:

  • Men had a higher union representation rate than women (11.1% to 9.9%).

  • Black employees were more likely to be union members than Caucasian, Asian or Hispanic employees.

  • Older workers were unionized at a higher rate: 12.8% of workers ages 45 to 54 and 13.3% of those ages 55 to 64 were represented by unions.

  • While nonunion workers’ median weekly earnings were less than those of unionized employees ($860 per week versus $1051 per week), this comparison does “not control for many factors that can be important in explaining earnings differences,” such as “variations in the distributions of union members and nonunion employees by occupation, industry, age, firm size, or geographic region.” (For example, unionized employees tend to be older and younger employees tend to earn less.)

  • The higher median weekly earnings for unionized employees does not apply to all occupations, however; median weekly earnings for a number of professional and management occupations such as those in business and financial operations and computer and mathematical occupations were higher among non-union employees than for union employees.

  • Hawaii and New York had the highest union membership rates (23.1% and 22.3% respectively), while North Carolina and South Carolina had the lowest (2.7% each).

  • In the private sector, utilities (20.1%), transportation and warehousing (16.7%), and telecommunications (15.4%) were the industries with the highest unionization rates. Finance (1.3%), food services and drinking places (1.3%), and professional and technical services (1.5%) were among the lowest.

  • The highest unionization rates in 2018 were in protective service occupations (33.9%) and in education, training, and library occupations (33.8%). Unionization rates were lowest in farming, fishing, and forestry occupations (2.4%); sales and related occupations (3.3%); computer and mathematical occupations (3.7% ); and in food preparation and serving related occupations (3.9% ).

  • California (2.4 million) and New York (1.9 million) had the largest number of unionized employees.

The 2018 BLS data on the rate of union membership reflect nothing more than the status quo – a tiny fraction of American workers in the private sector, and a minority overall, have chosen to become members of a union. Nevertheless, both unionized and union-free employers should be aware of local, industry, occupation, and other union membership trends.

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2019

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About this Author

Howard Bloom, Jackson Lewis, labor union attorney, unfair practice investigations lawyer, employment legal counsel, bargaining law
Principal

Howard M. Bloom is a Principal in the Boston, Massachusetts, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He has practiced labor and employment law representing exclusively employers for more than 36 years.

Mr. Bloom counsels clients in a variety of industries on labor law issues. He trains and advises executives, managers and supervisors on union awareness and positive employee relations, and assists employers in connection with union card-signing efforts, traditional union representation and corporate campaigns, and union decertification...

617-367-0025
Philip B. Rosen Jackson Lewis  Preventive Practices Lawyer & Collective Bargaining Attorney
Principal

Philip B. Rosen is a Principal in the New York City, New York, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is a member of the firm's Board of Directors and co-leads the firm's Labor and Preventive Practices Group. He joined the firm in 1979 and served as Managing Partner of the New York City office from 1989 to 2009.

Mr. Rosen lectures extensively, conducts management training, and advises clients with respect to legislative and regulatory initiatives, corporate strategies, business ethics, social media, reorganizations and reductions-in-force, purchase/sale transactions, sexual harassment and other workplace conduct rules, compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act, wrongful discharge and other workplace litigation, corporate campaigns and union organizing matters, collective bargaining, arbitration and National Labor Relations Board proceedings. He has been quoted by the press on many labor matters, including the National Labor Relations Board’s recent initiatives on protected concerted activity and the proposed Notice Posting requirements.

Mr. Rosen has extensive experience advising clients developing integrated corporate-wide labor relations strategies - whether the organization is union-free, partially unionized or entirely unionized. He has led teams conducting multi-facility labor-related legal assessments where clients are seeking to develop creative, strategic legal approaches which anticipate major issues and achieve a company’s labor relations goals. Mr. Rosen also has advised clients being confronted with corporate campaigns and requests for neutrality agreements. He has represented organizations seeking to maximize management rights through their development of pro-active employee relations approaches to remain union-free. He also has advised unionized organizations on lawful negotiating strategies – in situations ranging from “hard bargaining” to recapture management rights to more “cooperative” negotiations – in all cases, providing legal advice designed to assist clients in achieving their primary goals.

212-545-4000
Jonathan J. Spitz, Jackson Lewis Law Firm, Labor Employment Attorney, Atlanta
Shareholder

Jonathan J. Spitz is a Principal in the Atlanta, Georgia, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is Co-Leader of the firm’s Labor and Preventive Practices Group.

Mr. Spitz lectures extensively, conducts management training, and advises clients with respect to legislative and regulatory initiatives, corporate strategies, business ethics, social media issues and the changing regulatory landscape. He understands the practical and operational needs of corporate America, helping design pragmatic strategies to minimize risk and maximize performance. He has represented...

404-586-1835