BLS Releases Union Stats for U.S. – Good News and Bad News (Mostly Good News)

BLS-logo1The overall percentage of union membership rate in the United States was slightly down from 11.3 percent to 11.1 percent according to a news release distributed today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, although the percentage is down, unions actually added 48,000 members last year.  The reason for this perceived contradiction is that, although the amount of unionized workers grew, the overall workforce of the country grew at an even larger rate, thus making the percentage of union workers in that number smaller.

While some media outlets (we’re looking at you, Wall Street Journal!) report that these BLS numbers are a sign that the organized labor movement continues to suffer, others recognize that the movement has made progress in gaining new members (thanks, Chicago Tribune).

Proof of which for the construction industry is in a report from the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD) released today.

“In 2014, union membership in the construction industry increased by approximately 53,000. Adding to the increase reported by BLS in 2013, the two-year growth of membership in building and construction trade unions in America now stands at 148,000. Excluding residential construction and non-production/supervisory employees, the union construction industry is today approaching 40 percent density in the United States.”

“The numbers released today by BLS,” said Sean McGarvey, President of North America’s Building Trades Unions, “are an affirmation of the collective efforts by our unions to re-position the union construction industry as a value-centric, preferred vendor-supplier of skilled craft construction labor services in the United States, and as a trusted community partner that is providing hope in the form of career training opportunities for many disadvantaged people, including and especially women, minorities and military veterans.”

The bottom line:  Union membership is growing, and there are many more unorganized workers on the job out there to organize.  It is time to get to work to building the IUPAT and the rest of the organized labor movement.