Press Release Workers

Black Union Membership Plummets Amid Overall Declining Unionization Rates


January 23, 2020

Contact: Karen Conner, (202) 293-5380 x117Mail_Outline

January 22, 2020

For Immediate Release: January 22, 2020
Contact: Karen Conner, 202-281-4159, [email protected]

Washington, DC — The decline in Black union membership stood out amid declines in overall unionization rates in both the private and public sectors, according to today’s release of Union Membership Byte by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR).

Although Black workers remain the most heavily unionized racial group at 11.2 percent, they experienced the largest decline in membership in 2019, losing 215,000 members. In comparison, unionization rates for whites fell to 10.3 percent, Hispanics fell to 8.9 percent, while Asian unionization rates rose to 8.8 percent.

“Given that the average union worker earns substantially more per week than the average non-union worker, this year’s drop in Black union membership is of particular concern,” said co-author Hayley Brown.

2020 union membership rates by race/ethnicity
Looking at the big picture, the overall union membership rate fell to 10.3 percent, dropping by 0.2 percentage points between 2018 and 2019. This represents a loss of 170,000 union jobs. The union membership rates for both private and public sector workers fell for two consecutive years. These reductions reflect a downward trend that has persisted over the last several decades in the US.

CEPR’s annual Union Membership Byte gives an in-depth analysis of union membership by sector, gender, race, ethnicity, age, education, nativity, industry, occupation, and by state (including the District of Columbia). Other notable highlights from this year’s report:

• Of the major industries in the private sector, wholesale and retail trade saw the biggest drop in membership numbers (down 64,000).

• The gender gap continued to narrow in 2019. The membership rate for men declined to 10.8 percent, while the rate for women dropped to 9.7 percent.

• By education, the biggest declines were felt by those with a high school degree (down 0.4 percentage points to 9.5 percent) or less (down 0.6. percentage points to 4.9 percent). In 2019, those with a college degree had a higher unionization rate than those with a high school degree; the reverse had been consistently true prior to 2007.

• For the second year in a row, New York experienced the biggest overall loss in union members (down 140,000 in 2019), driven by a large reduction in public sector members. In 2019, the largest increase in union membership occurred in California (up 99,000).

CEPR’s Union Membership Byte is an analysis of Current Population Survey Outgoing Rotation Group and the Bureau of Labor Statistics publication of “Union Members – 2019.”

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