Workers have launched a series of high profile organizing campaigns in 2022, including at national chains Amazon and Starbucks. The federal agency that oversees labor elections, the National Labor Relations Board, reported a 53% increase in petitions filed during the fiscal year.
“More than 270,000 American workers joined unions in 2022, and Americans launched a record number of union elections during the year,” said White House Director of Labor Engagement, Erika Dinkel- Smith. “President Biden has taken historic steps to help Americans exercise their right to organize and he will continue to work to remove barriers to workers’ ability to exercise their rights in the workplace.”
Union officials pointed to anti-union efforts — not worker disinterest — as the reason for the drop. The House passed a Democratic bill in the last session, the Law on Protection of the Right to Organizewhich would have reformed labor law to make it easier for workers to join unions, but the legislation was blocked in the Senate.
“In 2022, we have seen workers rise up despite often illegal opposition from companies who would rather pay union-busting companies millions than give workers a seat at the table,” said the AFL-President. CIO, Liz Shuler. “The union wave will continue to grow in 2023 and beyond despite broken labor laws rigging the system against workers.”
Union opponents, meanwhile, have touted the numbers as proof that union ranks are thinning.
“The BLS numbers are another reminder that headlines from cheerleading journalists and influence in the halls of power in DC are no substitute for real support from hard-working, grassroots American workers,” the vice said. -president of the National Right to Work Foundation, Patrick Semmens.
“Union officials artificially increase their influence in a way that no other private organization can, but they do so while trampling on the rights of the very workers they claim to speak up for by forcing workers under a ‘representation’ to which they oppose and seeking to force workers to pay or be fired. For a worker who is considering unionizing, this is not a winning message,” Semmens said.
On average, unionized workers earn higher wages than their non-unionized counterparts. Median weekly earnings for nonunion workers were 85% of those for unionized workers in 2022, according to the BLS — though the agency noted that this statistic does not take into account other factors that could explain the gap.
Some trends remained unchanged: The union membership rate of public sector workers was still more than five times higher than that of private sector workers, at 33.1% and 6%, respectively. The membership rate for men (10.5%) also remained higher than that for women (9.6%). And black workers remained more likely to be unionized than white, Asian or Hispanic workers.
The BLS report also broke down union membership by occupation. The highest union membership rates were for workers in protective services (34.6%), such as firefighters, and jobs in education, training and libraries (33.7%). Those employed in the insurance industries; finance; professional and technical services; and food services and drinking places had unionization rates closer to 1%.
When it comes to states, Hawaii and New York had the highest unionization rates, at 21.9% and 20.7%, respectively. South Carolina and North Carolina had the lowest rates at 1.7% and 2.8%, respectively.
The latter two are so-called right-to-work states, where laws allow workers to disaffiliate from a union even if their largest workplace is represented by a union. The BLS reported Thursday that about 1.7 million workers are covered by union contracts despite not paying dues.