The rate of union membership has decreased year over year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last week. Union membership dropped from 10.3% in 2021 to 10.1% in 2022, the agency said. But whether U.S. workers are trending more or less in favor of unions is not so simple.
The number — not the rate — of wage and salary workers belonging to unions went up from 2021 to 2022. This was due to the number of wage and salary workers increasing in general, including those who didn’t join unions.
“This disproportionately large increase in the number of total wage and salary employment compared with the increase in the number of union members led to a decrease in the union membership rate,” BLS explained in its release.
As layoffs, corporate restructuring and hiring freezes dominate HR headlines, a natural question arises: Are workers losing ground in the employee-employer tug-of-war, therefore leading them to turn away from unions? It’s hard to say.
Last January, Pew Research Center published findings that the majority of Americans find the decline of unions “somewhat bad” or “very bad” for the country, HR Dive reported.
BLS economist Sean Smith emphasized that the union membership survey data comes from just two questions: “On this job, are you a member of a labor union or of an employee association similar to a union?” Should the respondent answer “No,” the next question they answer is: “On this job, are you covered by a union or employee association contract?”
Smith told HR Dive, “We don’t have any questions that ask about people’s opinions of unions, so we are unable to answer questions on pro-union or anti-union sentiment in the workforce.”
In August, a majority of workers surveyed (70%) by Jobcase said they would join a union if given a chance, HR Dive reported. Overall, the prospect of better compensation, improved benefits and job protection were the leading reasons for their interest in unions