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Union Membership Declines Amid Hard Economic Times

Jan 21, 2011 – 2:05 PM
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Joseph Schuman

Joseph Schuman Senior Correspondent

The faltering pace of growth in the U.S. economy and sickly state of the jobs market contributed to a steady drop in union membership around the country, as the role of organized labor continued to decline.

In 2010, the rate of union membership among wage and salary workers was just 11.9 percent, down from 12.3 percent a year earlier and down from more than 20 percent in 1983, the Labor Department said today.

The number of union members fell by 612,000, as many of the more heavily unionized professions such as teachers, police and firefighters suffered layoffs as strapped states and local governments cut their budgets, while heavily organized private-industry sectors such as construction continued to feel the bad economy's bite.

Members of labor unions hold a rally
Ramin Talaie, Getty Images
The decline in union membership continued last year, falling to just 11.9 percent among wage and salary workers, down from 12.3 percent a year earlier.
"Last year was a difficult year for too many families already struggling to make ends meet," said Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union.

"While corporate America continued to thrive, the harsh reality is that more than 14 million Americans are out of work, and many who have jobs haven't had a raise in more than a decade," Henry said. "The decline in the number of workers who have a voice on the job makes it more difficult to reverse the economic trends that continue to put workers and our communities in crisis."

Union membership continued to skew older last year, with 15.7 percent of workers aged 55 to 64 in unions and just 4.3 percent of workers aged 16 to 24 as members.

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Public-sector workers, like teachers, government employees and emergency-service officials, are still far more unionized, at 36.2 percent, than their private-sector counterparts, at 6.9 percent.

The South remained the U.S. region most resistant to labor organizing, with North Carolina, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi recording the smallest union membership rates. The most unionized states were New York, Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, California and New Jersey.

And union members continued to earn more than non-unionized full-time wage and salary workers, with average weekly earnings of $917, compared with $717 among non-union workers.
Filed under: Nation, Politics, Money, Unemployment, Economy, AOL Original
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