January 25, 2007 (Union Byte)
Union Rates Fall in 2006, Severe Drop in Manufacturing
January 25, 2007
By John Schmitt and Ben Zipperer
For the first time in U.S. history, union membership rates were
lower in manufacturing than in the rest of the economy.
membership declined sharply in 2006, from 12.5 percent of all workers in both
2004 and 2005, to just 12.0 percent of all workers last year, according to the
Bureau of Labor Statistics annual union membership report released today.
Overall, the number of U.S. workers in a union fell last year by 326,000
workers, to 15.4 million workers in 2006.
largest decrease in union membership rates occurred in manufacturing, where
union membership dropped 1.3 percentage points to just 11.7 percent of
manufacturing workers. For the first time since the BLS began tracking these
trends, and likely for the first time in U.S. history, union membership rates
were lower in manufacturing (11.7 percent) than in the rest of the economy
addition to losses in manufacturing, very few segments of the private sector
reported gains in unionization. Union membership in the private sector slid in 2006
to only 7.4 percent. Among public-sector workers, membership also fell (down
0.3 percentage points), but, at 36.2 percent, remained at levels consistent
with those over the last two decades. Public-sector union jobs in 2006
accounted for almost half of union members, even though public-sector
employment comprised less than one-fifth of the economy. (For a discussion of
trends in illegal firings in the private sector during union organizing
campaigns, see CEPR’s report, Dropping the Ax: Illegal Firings During Union Election Campaigns.)
of all races saw declines in union membership. At 14.5 percent,
African-Americans remained more likely to be in a union than white, Asian, or
Hispanic workers, but union membership among blacks in 2006 still fell by 0.6
percentage points. Since 1983, the earliest year for which directly comparable
data are available, union membership has decreased by 12.6 percentage points
among blacks (from 27.1 percent in 1983), but dropped only 7.5 percentage
points among whites (from 19.2 percent in 1983). (For longer-term trends in
African-American unionization, see CEPR’s report, The Decline in African-American Representation in Unions and Auto Manufacturing, 1979-2004.)
declines were roughly the same -- down about 0.5 percentage points -- for both
men and women. In 2006, men (13.0 percent) were more often union members than
women (10.9 percent), but over time, the unionization rates have been
converging. In 1983, the earliest year for which directly comparable data are
available, men (24.7 percent) were much more likely to be in a union than were
women (14.6 percent).
decline of unions within manufacturing was severe and will likely persist. In
2006, the number of unionized workers in manufacturing was nine percent lower
than in 2005, a loss of 190,000 union members. Buyouts and early retirements of
unionized auto workers throughout 2007 will lead to additional losses in union
members, as will continued weakness in the manufacturing sector. Because of these declines, it is
no longer accurate to view manufacturing work as a “union job.” Manufacturing
workers are now less likely to be in a union than is the average U.S. worker.
latest numbers continue a long-run decline in union membership. In 1983, about
1 in 5 workers in the United States was a member of a union, including almost 1
in 3 black men. By 2006, only 1 in 8 workers was a union member, and only about
1 in 6 black men.
1983, about 1 in 6 private-sector workers was in a union. Twenty-three years
later, the share has fallen to about 1 in 14.
Schmitt is a senior economist and Ben Zipperer is a research assistant at the
Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C.
CEPR’s Union Membership
Byte is published annually upon release of the Bureau of Labor Statistics Union
Membership report. Data for years before 2005 are from the authors’ analysis of
Current Population Survey data. For more information or to subscribe by fax or
e-mail contact CEPR at 202-293-5380 ext. 103 or ray at cepr dot net.