Union Membership Climbed In 2011, But Membership Rates Declined

In 2011, union membership increased 49,000 last year to 14.76 million.

However, the Union membership rate declined by just 10 basis points in 2011 to 11.8% according to BLS data.

In 1983, the first year for which comparable data is available, union membership stood at 20.1%.

Among the survey’s other findings:

  • Public sector workers had a union membership rate five times higher than the private sector — 37 % versus 6.9 %.
  • Teachers and librarians had the highest unionization rate at 36.8 %, while sales workers had the lowest at 3 %.
  • Demographically, Black men showed the highest rate at 17%, while Asian men showed the lowest at 10.1 %.
  • Among states, New York was first with 24%, while North Carolina was last with 2.9%.
  • Utility workers saw the greatest drop in union membership, declining 4.6% from 2010. Motion picture and sound recording professionals saw the greatest gain, 3.5%.


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