By almost every measure, union membership rates continued its steady decline in 2019, according to the latest statistics on unionization rates in the United States from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The overall union membership rate in 2019 was 10.3%, down by 0.2% from 2018. The total number of unionized workers in 2019 was 14.57 million, down from 14.74 million in 2018. Including non-members, 11.6 million people were represented by a union in 2019, down from 11.7 million in 2018.

Unions’ loss in membership was reflected over most demographics. Union membership among men declined by 0.3%, from 11.1% in 2018 to 10.8% in 2019. Among women, the union membership declined by 0.2%, from 9.9% to 9.7%. The BLS reported that union membership rates among Black, Hispanic, and Caucasian workers all dropped. Indeed, the union membership rate decrease was highest for Black workers at 1.3%, down from 12.5% in 2018 to 11.2% in 2019. In fact, in the racial and ethnic categories, BLS reported only an increase among Asian workers, from 8.4% on 2018 to 8.8% in 2019.

Union membership rates also dropped by occupation and industry. BLS reported that between 2018 and 2019, union membership declined in management and professional service, sales and office, and production, transportation, and material moving, among other occupations. Industries including agriculture, mining, construction, manufacturing, wholesale and retail, financial services, professional and business, education and health, and public sector all had reduced union membership rates between 2018 and 2019.

In its press release reacting to the BLS report, the AFL-CIO blamed “barriers” faced by workers seeking to join a union, such as the Republican-majority National Labor Relations Board, for the declines. The AFL-CIO also pointed to what it viewed as bargaining successes after strikes by auto workers in Detroit, teachers in Chicago, and communication workers in Southeastern states. The AFL-CIO also touted high public approval rates for unions and claimed to “gain momentum” in unorganized workplaces in the hospitality, electric bus manufacturing, technology, video games, and media industries.

Despite the BLS report, employers in all industries should remain vigilant for union organizing efforts, especially in non-traditional industries, such as technology. Judging by the AFL-CIO’s reactions to the BLS report, unions also may employ strikes, picketing, and other collective actions to increase their relevance in workplaces. If you would like to review your company’s readiness, please contact any Jackson Lewis attorney.

 

 

 

 

 

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Photo of Howard M. Bloom Howard M. Bloom

Howard M. Bloom is a Principal in the Boston, Massachusetts, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He has practiced labor and employment law representing exclusively employers for more than 36 years.

Mr. Bloom counsels clients in a variety of industries on labor law issues.

Howard M. Bloom is a Principal in the Boston, Massachusetts, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He has practiced labor and employment law representing exclusively employers for more than 36 years.

Mr. Bloom counsels clients in a variety of industries on labor law issues. He trains and advises executives, managers and supervisors on union awareness and positive employee relations, and assists employers in connection with union card-signing efforts, traditional union representation and corporate campaigns, and union decertification campaigns. He also represents clients at the National Labor Relations Board in connection with bargaining unit issues, objections and challenges, as well as unfair labor practice investigations and trials. Mr. Bloom also has been the spokesperson at countless first and successor contract collective bargaining negotiations, and regularly advises on collective bargaining agreement administration issues, including grievance/arbitration issues.

Mr. Bloom has appeared before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, several U.S. District Courts, the National Labor Relations Board, the Massachusetts Labor Relations Commission, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.

Mr. Bloom speaks frequently to employer groups on a wide range of labor and employment law topics. He also has written extensively on labor and employment law for a variety of publications, including New England Business magazine, The Boston Globe and the Boston Business Journal. He also is editor of and a frequent contributor to the Jackson Lewis Labor & Collective Bargaining Blog.

While attending law school, he was the Executive Editor of The Advocate: the Suffolk University Law School Journal and President of the Student Bar Association.

Mr. Bloom is a diehard baseball fan. His first book, The Baseball Uncyclopedia: A Highly Opinionated Myth-Busting Guide to the Great American Game, was published in February 2006.