Are unions are dying breed? The answer to that question often depends on your perspective.  

As we’ve seen in Connecticut, if unions are "dying", they are not going down without a fight.

But statistics just released by the U.S. Department of Labor tell a more complete story.  The statistics show a leveling off of the decline in union membership that’s been ongoing for the last two decades. 

The percentage of workers who belonged to a union in 2007 was 12.1 percentage, up slightly from the 12.0 percent in 2006.  (For comparison, union membership in 1983 was at approximately 20 percent.)

Indeed, unions can claim a 300,000+ union membership increase in 2007.  The full statistics are available from the U.S. Department of Labor on their website. 

The numbers for Connecticut also tell a noteworthy story:

  • In 2006, 247,000 Connecticut workers belong to a union — or 15.6 percent of the workforce.  This is higher than the national average.
  • That number increased slightly in 2007 to 253,000 workers — also 15.6 percent of the workforce.
  • It is unclear from the survey whether this 6,000 worker increase includes the 2600 dealers who voted to unionize at Foxwoods last fall. As readers know, the election results are being appealed now.

For unions, the numbers in Connecticut show a relatively stable unionized workforce and should give them some solace that they are holding their own. And for employers, the numbers are a good reminder that unions still maintain sizable support in the state. 

Unions may be down overall from where they were decades ago, but they remain an important influence in today’s workplace. Whether the numbers will decrease over time depends on so many factors — including the possible passage of the Employee Free Choice Act — that it would be irresponsible to predict what will happen.

But, the next time you read an article about how unions are going the way of the "horse and carriage", just remember that the statistics don’t tell that story — at least not yet.