NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Small Increase In Union Membership Last Year

January 20, 2000

After decades of declining membership, unions witnessed a modest increase during 1999. The number of union members increased roughly 1.6 percent; but the percentage of wage and salaried workers belonging to unions remained flat at 13.9 percent.

  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported yesterday that union membership climbed by 265,000 in 1999 -- to 16.5 million.
  • Some of the growth came from unionized employers adding additional workers as the booming economy added some 2.7 million jobs last year.
  • Union membership has fallen by about one-fourth since 1980.
  • In the 1950s, unions represented about 35 percent of the nation's work force -- compared to 13.9 percent last year.

John J. Sweeney, head of the AFL-CIO, claims that the nation's unions organized 600,000 additional workers last year. But growth in labor's ranks was far smaller than that because of layoffs of unionized workers.

Some 9.4 percent of the private sector work force now belong to unions. Among government employees, some 37.3 percent are unionized.

Source: Steven Greenhouse, "Growth in Unions' Membership in 1999 Was the Best in Two Decades," New York Times, January 20, 2000.


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