Union Membership of Employed Wage and Salary Workers

Monthly Labor Review, May 1986 | Go to article overview

Union Membership of Employed Wage and Salary Workers


Union membership of employed wage and salary workers, 1985

The number of employed wage and salary workers who were members of unions or employee associations declined from 20.1 to 17.0 million between 1980 and 1985. During the same period, the number of employed wage and salary workers rose from 87.5 to 94.5 million. Thus, the proportion of workers who were union members fell from 23.0 to 18.0 percent over the 5-year period. The number and proportion of workers represented by unions--that is, union members as well as nonmembers covered by collective bargaining agreements--also declined, from 22.5 to 19.4 million or from 25.7 to 20.5 percent of employed wage and salary workers.

Data on union employment were obtained from the Current Population Survey (CPS), conducted by the Bureau of the Census for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The CPS collected data on workers identified by their membership in unions or by their representation at work by a union, whether or not they were members. It should be noted that the CPS union membership data covered only employed wage and salary workers, not union members who were self-employed, unemployed, retired, laid off, or who, for other reasons, were not wage and salary employees.

Industry. Among the major industry groups, the transportation, communications, and public utilities industry had the highest union membership proportion--37 percent, or 2.1 million members out of 5.7 million workers. Three other major industry groups had union membership proportions greater than the national average of 18.0 percent: the public sector--Federal, State, and local government (35.8 percent); manufacturing (24.8 percent); and construction (22.3 percent). In mining, 17.3 percent of the workers were union members, just below the national average. Among the other industry groups (wholesale and retail trade; services; and finance, insurance, and real estate), union membership rates were no higher than 7.2 percent. (See table 1.)

Union membership was disproportionately concentrated in three major industry groups. The public sector accounted for 33.8 percent of all employed union members; manufacturing for 29.4 percent; and transportation, communications, and public utilities for 12.5 percent. Although these three groups accounted for three-fourths of union membership, they employed only 44 percent of the Nation's wage and salary workers.

Occupation. The two most heavily unionized major occupational groups were operators, fabricators, and laborers, with 31. …

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