In 2013, the union membership rate--the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of unions--was 11.3 percent, the same as in 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions, at 14.5 million, was little different from 2012.The bad news is that "In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent, and there were 17.7 million union workers." Well, there's a lot of bad news to be taken from that decline over the past decades. That's not just bad news for unions as organizations or for current union members. It's bad news for an American workforce facing wage stagnation. It's bad news for women, too:
The gender gap between what unionized male workers make and what unionized female workers make is just 9.4 cents, meaning that women working full time make more than 90 percent of what men do, according to an analysis by the National Women’s Law Center.Whatever the strengths or weaknesses of unions, they're one of the few forces standing in the way of corporations driving down wages and working conditions to the bare minimum required by law, and then most likely turning to Congress and state legislatures to weaken the law further. Unions reduce inequality, which makes their decline—a decline caused by an all-out war against them waged by corporations and Republican politicians—bad for all of us.
Among non-union workers, on the other hand, the wage gap is 18.7 cents, about double the gap between union workers. And while the gender wage gap overall hasn’t improved in five years, it’s been shrinking among workers who belong to a union, declining 2.6 cents between 2013 and 2012.