Fed membership in unions declines slightly

Union membership has declined across the board in 2010 despite a substantial rise in public sector union workers compared to their private sector counterparts.

By John Buckner
Federal News Radio

Federal government employee membership in unions slightly declined in 2010, according to a Bureau Labor of Statistics report Friday.

In 2009, 28 percent of federal workers belonged to a union, but in 2010 that number dropped to 26.8 percent.

Overall, an estimated 7.6 million public sector workers — including state and local governments — belonged to a union in 2010, slightly higher than in 2009, 7.1 million.

Among the public sector employees, a total of 7.6 million identified with a union, 984,000 of them working at the federal level.

Overall, union membership dropped in 2010 to 11.9 percent from 12.3 percent. This is a decline of 612,000 union members across the board with the total for 2010 at 14.7 million.

Collected by the Current Population Survey (CPS), public sector workers union membership rate was around 36 percent, significantly higher than the private sector rate of 6.9 percent.

The data also included the almost 2,000 state level union workers and reported over 11,000 at the local level. The survey also showed in 2010 that more than 1 million federal workers held jobs that are covered by a union associated contract but held no union affiliation.

While the survey did not break down union membership by industry in the public sector, the data did give an idea of the private sector industries breakdown. Membership in the private manufacturing industry was more than 13,000 and the private agriculture industry held a more than 1,000 union members.

Among the various occupational union members, around 476,000 worked in management and almost 136,000 worked in computer and mathematical operations. Education, training and library workers were the occupations with the highest unionization rate of 37.1 percent.

Other relevant statistics included that African-American workers were more likely to be union members than White workers, Asian workers and Hispanic workers.

Gender and age also played a role in union membership. Overall, men held a rate of 12.6 percent as opposed to women with a rate of 11.1 percent. Among older workers, aged 55 to 64, 15.7 percent were union members. Ages 16 to 24 showed the lowest union membership rate of 4.3 percent.

CPS has been keeping track of union membership since 1983 when there were 17.7 million union workers.

John Buckner is an intern with Federal News Radio.

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