Despite Attacks, U.S. Union Membership Rises

A new Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report shows union membership increased in 2011, despite the year’s historic onslaught of anti-union attacks from Republican politicians.

The BLS report shows union membership increased by 49,000 from 2010 to 2011. The private sector led the way with a union membership increase of 110,000 employees, while the public sector saw a 61,000 decline, mainly due to government cutbacks. 

The overall unionization rate was essentially unchanged at 11.8 percent, a total of 14.8 million union workers.

The data also show that among full-time wage and salary workers, the median weekly earnings of union members were $938, compared to $729 for nonunion workers. And, union women earned median weekly earnings of $879, an amount 34.6 percent higher than their nonunion counterparts, who earned just $653 by comparison.

“Prior reporting shows that union members have greater access to health care, retirement and leave benefits,” said Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis. “Today’s numbers make it clear that union jobs are critical to a strong economy. And a strong economy depends on a strong and growing middle class.

“Ensuring that all people have a voice at work and protecting their right to organize and bargain collectively are essential for an America that’s built to last, where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone pays his or her fair share and everyone plays by the same rules.” 

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