Union Free America

Union Membership In America

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2010 and 2011 unions gained 49,000 members - a gain of 110,000 on private payrolls and a loss of 61,000 in government employment.

As a result, the percent of the total workforce that belonged to unions fell from 11.9 in 2010 to 11.8 in 2011. On private payrolls it stayed even at 6.9 percent and in government employment it increased from 36.2 to 37.0 percent.

The source of the information is the BLS's Current Population Survey. In both instances the small increases were within the margin of error for the survey. Click here to see the whole BLS "Union Members Summary" report for 2011. 

There's a good reason union membership is so much higher in government. Politicians have bartered the dues of public employees for union political support. Maybe public employees are getting tired of being exploited for the political gains of their union bosses and the politicians.

There was a time when things were different. In the mid 1950's more than 35 percent of all employees on private payrolls were union members. But then unions decided to focus more on political power than representing the interests of workers. Not surprisingly union membership has been on the decline ever since.

Unions like to blame their failure on opposition from management but the fact is that the working people of American have rejected the unions' class-warfare, us-against-them approach to employment.

Proof of this is available from several sources. According to a 1999 Gallup survey only 21 percent of employees who aren't union members would like to be in a union.

A Zogby Poll conducted in 2005 found that only 16 percent of employees said they would definitely vote for union representation compared to 38 percent who said they would definitely vote against. When you combine those who would definitely and probably vote for a union compared to those would would definitely or probably vote against a union the numbers were 36 percent for and 56 percent against with the rest undecided.

Another indication is the results of National Labor Relations Board Elections. Even though employment covered by the NLRB grew by more than 2.3 million jobs in 2006, the NLRB conducted only 1,755 union representation elections covering 87,172 employees. Unions won 60 percent of these elections, but they don't petition the NLRB to conduct an election until they think they have a pretty good shot at winning.

In other words, even when they thought they had a good shot at it, the unions only won 60 percent of the time and only tried to organize workers in less than 4 percent of the new jobs.

The NLRB also conducts decertification elections - elections where employees petition to get rid of a union - the unions lose about 65 percent of the time.

Updated July 2012


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