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The National AFL-CIO Says The Bureau Of Labor Statistics’ Annual Report On Union Membership, Which ‘Shows A Decline, Reflects Our Broken’ Labor Laws

Published Friday, January 21, 2022
by The National AFL-CIO, The Hill & Staff
The National AFL-CIO Says The Bureau Of Labor Statistics’ Annual Report On Union Membership, Which ‘Shows A Decline, Reflects Our Broken’ Labor Laws

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – The National AFL-CIO says the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) annual report on Union Membership, which shows a decline in 2021, “reflect our broken” Labor Laws.

Just about 1 in 10 American Workers belonged to a Labor Union last year as the long-term decline in Union Membership continued even through a pandemic that saw record worker actions and Organizing Drives.

The BLS announced Thursday (January 20th) that 14 million Workers were Members of Unions, down almost a quarter of a million from the year before.

The share of Workers represented by Unions stands at 10.3%, equal to 2019, when that measure hit its lowest rate since the BLS first began surveying Worker Union Rates in 1983.

That share jumped briefly to 10.8% in 2020, an increase the BLS attributed to the steep drop-off in Non-Union Workers at the beginning of the Coronavirus Pandemic.

The temporary increase was an aberration of a nearly four-decade trend of declining Union enrollment.

In 1983, 17.7 million Americans were Members of a Labor Union and 20.5 million were represented by a Union, even if they did not pay Membership Dues.

Those numbers have fallen steadily, if not uniformly, over the last two generations, even as the number of American Workers has increased substantially.

Today, there are about 50 million more Workers in the American economy than there were in 1983 and three million fewer Union Members.

The latest yearly decrease in Union Membership comes against the backdrop of high-profile Union Organizing Drives, from a successful campaign at Starbucks outlets in New York to an unsuccessful effort at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama, where Workers will vote on a new Unionization proposal next month.

The National AFL-CIO says the BLS’s annual Union Membership report “makes it clear that American Labor Laws are unquestionably broken.”

The Labor Federation noted that while the report indicates a 0.5% drop in Union Membership from 2020 to 2021, the data is not representative of the greater Union trends taking place across the country.

The BLS Union Membership statistics also highlight the urgent need for the passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act and the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, the National AFL-CIO said.

“In 2021, Workers forcefully rejected low-wage, thankless jobs after a year of being called ‘essential,’” National AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler said.

“In light of the COVID-19 Pandemic, it is clearer now than ever that our Labor Laws are designed to make joining a Union as difficult as possible.  Across this country, Workers are organizing for a voice on the job and millions of Americans are standing in solidarity with Union Members on Strike.  If everyone who wanted to join a Union was able to do so, Membership would skyrocket.  The PRO Act and the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act are how we get there.”

In the past year, millions of Americans have left the workforce for numerous reasons, including a lack of access to affordable child, elder and differently-abled care, as well as an unwillingness to sacrifice their health and safety for low-paying jobs with substandard benefits.

Unions are considered the best solution to this crisis by ensuring Workers have access to safe working conditions, fair pay and health benefits and collective bargaining rights. 

However, the BLS report also showed promising data for Communities of Color.

Black Workers continued to have the highest Unionization Rate in 2021, with 12.9% Membership.

According to an Economic Policy Institute (EPI) study, Black Union Workers are paid 13.7% more than their Non-Unionized peers. 

According to a 2021 Gallup Poll, Union approval is at its highest level in over 50 years, with 68% of Americans supporting Organized Labor, including 77% of young people.

An MIT study found that 60 million Americans would join a Labor Union if they could, underscoring the need for changes to Labor Laws. 

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