The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has released its 2010 report on labor unions. The most important statistic for many is overall union membership, i.e., the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of a union. Union membership in 2010 was 11.9%, down from 12.3% in 2009. Other highlights from the report:
· Public v. Private Sector: Union membership rate for public sector workers (36.2%) was substantially higher than the rate for private sector workers (6.9%).
· Industry: Workers in education, training, and library occupations had the highest unionization rate at 37.1%.
· Race: Black workers were more likely to be union members than were white, Asian, or Hispanic workers.
· States: New York had the highest union membership rate (24.2%) and North Carolina had the lowest rate (3.2%).
These statistics follow an interesting article in the N.Y. Times in early January, which claims that the public is becoming less and less sympathetic towards public-sector unions. The article features the story of a Flemington, N.J. teacher who appeared on YouTube in a debate with N.J. Governor Chris Christie and who became the target of public outrage as a result. The story certainly lines up with the statistics from the federal government. The public as a whole has a low union-membership rate (less than 12% of all workers are union members), but more than one-third of public workers are card-carriers and membership is particularly high in public education. This is apparently a formula for the public to push back against unions that citizens feel are adding to the public’s heavy burden when it comes to taxes and budget cuts.