By Edward M. Cherof with Jackson Lewis P.C., Laura A. Pierson-Scheinberg with Jackson Lewis P.C., Jonathan J. Spitz with Jackson Lewis P.C. & Richard F. Vitarelli with Jackson Lewis P.C.
The union membership rate among private sector workers fell to 6.0% in 2022, according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) news release. This is down from 6.1% in 2021 and continues the overall decline since private sector union membership peaked in the mid-1950s.
While organizing activity increased in 2022 (including workers at high-profile employers petitioning to unionize for the first time), the size of the national workforce also grew in 2022, compared to the prior year. Thus, unions would have had to grow membership even more significantly to maintain or improve the national membership rate. Indeed, the number of union members in the private sector increased by 193,000 in 2022.
Industries with some of the highest unionization rates include transportation and utilities (15.2%), motion pictures and sound recording (17.3%), and construction (11.7%). Despite the uptick in organizing activity in the retail and fast-food industries last year, unionization in retail trade decreased to 4.3% (down from 4.4% in 2021) and accommodation and food services remained at 2.0%.
Union membership increased in 2022 in many states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Texas.
The BLS data reinforces a 2022 Gallup survey that reported that, while 71% of the U.S. population views union favorably, 58% of nonunion workers are “not interested at all” in actually joining a union. Likewise, the data shows that much of the high-profile organizing activity seen throughout the country involved only a small percentage of the overall workforce.
Nevertheless, 2022 witnessed an increase in employee activism, an uptick in walk outs and work stoppages, and an effort by “home grown” labor organizations to seek representation. Moreover, momentum from recent high-profile unionizing successes should not be overlooked. It is all the more important that employers continue to engage in the everyday blocking and tackling, by promoting positive employee relations, addressing employee issues and concerns at the first-line supervisory level, and taking the necessary steps to be an employer of choice.
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