A report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in the US Department of Labor said that the number of workers in unions dropped to 12.5% last year from 12.9% in 2003, according to a New York Times report, while the percentage of private-sector workers in unions fell to 7.9% from 8.2 %, making it the lowest level since the early 1900’s. The BLS said the number of union members fell last year to 15.5 million, down 300,000 from 2003.
The government data showed that the public sector remained a labor stronghold, with 36.4% of government workers unionized, more than four times their private-sector counterparts. But even that was a decline from 37.2% the year before, and labor suffered a further setback this month when the new Republican governors of Indiana and Missouri ordered an end to collective bargaining rights for state employees, according to the Times report.
Labor relations experts said a reason for the decline was the loss of jobs in manufacturing, which was traditionally labor’s greatest stronghold. While the number of manufacturing jobs actually climbed slightly last year, labor leaders said, unionized factories continued to be hit hard.
“The numbers illustrate the convergence of two painful trends for America’s working families,” Sarah Massey, a spokeswoman for the AFL-CIO, told the Times. “The climate for workers who want to organize unions to better their economic situation is increasingly antagonistic, and good jobs are still disappearing.”
New York had the highest percentage of workers in unions, 25.3%, and North Carolina has the lowest percentage – 2.7%.