How Union Membership Has Changed Over 25 Years
November 18, 2009
Unions today are composed of a greater share of women, Hispanics, Asian Pacific Americans and more-educated workers, according to new data that also indicate a shift in unionized labor away from manufacturing toward services. Around the middle of the last century, labor unions represented about a third of all American workers. Since then, the United States labor movement has undergone major changes, particularly in recent years, not the least of which has been shrinking membership. The union membership rate in the U.S. has fallen from 20.1 percent of employed wage and salary workers in 1983 to 12.4 percent in 2008, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) latest union members summary
- Immigrants represented 12.6 percent of union members in 2008, up from 8.4 percent in 1994;
- Latino workers, the fastest-growing ethnic group in the labor movement, represented 12.2 percent of the union workforce last year, up from 5.8 percent in 1983;
- Asian workers have also made considerable gains, composing 4.6 percent of the union workforce in 2008, up from 2.5 percent in 1989; and
- Black workers represented about 13 percent of the total unionized workforce last year, a share that has held relatively steady since 1983.