WASHINGTON — Union membership in the U.S. dropped to the lowest since the federal government began collecting such data in 1983, according to a report released Thursday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The agency found that the union membership rate fell to 10.1% in 2022 from 10.3% in 2021. It attributed the drop to an increase in the total number of wage and salary workers, most of whom didn’t belong to unions, outpacing an increase in the number of workers belonging to them.
From 2021 to 2022, the number of union members went up by 273,000, but during the same period, the number of nonunion members increased by about 5.3 million.
“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,” the report said.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics began measuring the union membership rate in 1983, when it was 20.1% and there were 17.7 million workers. The rate in 2022 was the lowest on record, the agency said Thursday.
The AFL-CIO, which federates the largest number of unions, appeared to dismiss the record low and celebrated the latest data because membership grew even though “giant corporations such as Amazon and Starbucks ratcheted up illegal efforts to intimidate, harass and fire workers who are forming unions.”
“In 2022, we saw working people rising up despite often illegal opposition from companies that would rather pay union-busting firms millions than give workers a seat at the table,” AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler said in a statement.
According to the 2022 data, the highest union membership rate was among people who worked in protective service, education, training and libraries. The agency also found that the rate was higher among men than women and that Black workers were more likely to belong to unions than white, Hispanic or Asian workers.