Union membership falls – but not in AFSCME
Submitted by AFSCME Council 5
Union membership in the United States fell in 2012 to the lowest level since 1916, but AFSCME continues growing. Council 5 added 300 members last year and, nationwide, AFSCME organized 50,000 more workers in the last two years. That’s in contrast to the national trend, in which the percentage of workers in a union fell to 11.3 percent, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Despite that grim statistic, other BLS numbers prove how a union card remains a front-row ticket into the middle class. Union workers make an average of $10,452 a year more than nonunion workers, a fact that news reports universally ignore.
Union members, on average, make $201 more per week than nonunion workers doing the same kinds of work, the BLS statistics show.
Being in a union also erases the historical wage gap that women face. In the economy overall, women get paid only $77 for every $100 that men make. However, women in a union job make an average of $56 a week more than men who are not in a union.
The union advantage is also substantial for historically underpaid minorities. African-Americans make an average of $185 a week more if they work union; Latino workers make an average of $310 a week more if they are in a union.
Power in the public sector
The union wage advantage is also evident for public workers. Nationwide, state government employees make $154 more a week, on average, if they’re in a union. Unionized local government employees make $233 a week more on average, compared with local government employees who have not formed a union at work.
With 35.9 percent of public employees in a union, the public sector remains five times more unionized than the private sector, where only 6.6 percent of workers are in a union. But, in the wake of ongoing austerity budgets and the relentless assaults on bargaining rights in states such as Wisconsin, public-sector unions also had the biggest losses in 2012. School and local government unions, for example, lost more than 180,000 members.
Overall, 14.4 million American workers are in a union – about 7 million in the private sector, the rest in the public sector. An additional 1.5 million are covered by collective bargaining agreements, but are not full union members.
Minnesota has an estimated 351,000 union members. That’s 14.2 percent of the workforce, a rate that puts the state 13th in the nation. Minnesota’s union density is down about 1 percentage point from 2011.