DOL Reports Mixed Results for 2014: Union Membership Declines in Private Sector but Public Sector Rises

Contributed by Sara Zorich

On January 23, 2015, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released its 2014 Union Membership Annual Report.  Most notably was a decrease in union membership overall by .2%.  The private sector union rates fell from 7.5% to 7.4% between 2013 and 2014 while the public sector rose from 38.7% to 39.2%.

The DOL report indicated that in 2014, 7.2 million employees in the public sector were members of a union compared to 7.4 million workers in the private sector.  However, public sector workers have a much higher percentage of union membership – 35.7% for the public sector vs. 6.6% for the private sector.  In the private sector, industries with the highest rate of unionized workforces continue to include utilities (22.3%), transportation and warehousing (19.6%), telecommunication (14.8%) and construction (13.9%).

In Illinois, union membership rates fell by .7% in 2014.  In 2013, 15.8% of the workforce in Illinois were members of a union compared to 15.1% in 2014.

The report also noted that men had a higher union membership rate at 11.7% vs. women at 10.5%.  Though it was reported that the gap between union membership for men and women has narrowed significantly in the past 30 years when the gap was approximately 10.1%.  Additionally, the union membership rates for older workers were the highest with workers age 55 to 64 representing 14.1% of the union membership however this was a decrease from 14.3% in 2013.  The union membership rates for younger employees (age 16 – 24 years) grew from 4.2% to 4.5% showing that even though the youngest age group has maintained the smallest union rate percentage, it is on the rise.

A copy of the Labor Department report may be found here.

Despite the DOL’s report, organized labor is ramping up efforts to organize non-union workers across all industries and across socio-economic lines (including clerical and white-collar).