Union membership held steady in 2013

The share of American workers belonging to labor unions held steady in 2013, remaining unchanged at 11.3 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.

Overall, 14.5 million workers belong to unions. That’s down from 17.7 million in 1983, the year for which comparable data were first available, the agency said.

American labor has seen a steep decline in its membership for years, and the report released Friday suggests that — at least for now — the diminishing membership has halted.

Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, the country’s largest labor federation, said the report showed gains in parts of the country, including the South. But labor groups are still working to fight laws weakening collective bargaining by public-sector workers, he said. “Make no mistake: The job of rebuilding workers’ bargaining power and raising wages for the 99 percent has a long way to go,” Trumka said.

The yearly report provided a snapshot of union membership by state, as well as a count of public- and private-sector union membership.

New York had more than double the national average. Nearly a quarter of workers there belonged to a union, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. North Carolina had the lowest unionization rate, which stood at 3 percent in 2013.

Additionally, public-sector workers were more likely to report union membership. The unionization share for this cohort of workers was 35.3 percent last year, more than five times higher than the rate for private-sector workers. Less than 7 percent of private-sector workers belong to unions.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that among full-time workers, union members had higher median weekly earnings than non-union members. Union workers earned $950 per week, compared with $750 for those who don’t belong to labor groups.

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