Another day, another statistical report from the Department of Labor. (Though in fairness to the DOL, it has a whole office addressed to labor statistics (BLS), so of course we’re going to get a lot of stats.
The latest is its annual release of data showing union membership. I first wrote about that data three years ago, way back in January 2008. Back then I said:
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.)
So where are we today? In 2010, unions nationwide lost 612,000 members; in percentage t
erms, just 11.9 percent of all workers were unionized and union membership in the private sector dropped from 7.2 percent to 6.9 — some of the lowest levels in over 70 years.
The numbers for Connecticut also show a drop last year. In 2010, 12,000 fewer employees were represented by unions and the percentage of union-represeted employees in the workforce dropped to 17.4 percent (down from 18.4 percent in 2009.
But before we make too much of this, the percentage and overall numbers of those represented by unions is still up from 2007 numbers.
The drop, in some ways, isn’t unexpected; after all, Connecticut has been mired in a deep recession with unemployment numbers hovering around 9 percent. But it does indicate that union membership isn’t necessary a safeguard from layoffs.
Does this mean unions are dying or are poised for a comeback? Jon Hyman argues that the next two years under a friendly NLRB will be crucial to determining that future. I’m not ready to rule unions out either, particularly in states like Connecticut where union membership is much more embedded in business.
As I said back in 2008, "unions may be down overall from where they were decades ago, but they remain an important influence in today’s workplace."