January 30, 2009
In 2008, union members accounted for 12.4 percent of employed wage and salary workers, up from 12.1 percent a year earlier. The number of workers belonging to a union rose by 428,000 to 16.1 million. 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 workers.
The union membership rate was higher for men (13.4 percent) than for women (11.4 percent) in 2008. The gap between their rates has narrowed considerably since 1983, when the rate for men was about 10 percentage points higher than the rate for women. Between 1983 and 2008, the union membership rate for men declined by 11.3 percentage points, while the rate for women declined by 3.2 percentage points.
In 2008, black workers were more likely to be union members (14.5 percent) than workers who were white (12.2 percent), Asian (10.6 percent), or Hispanic (10.6 percent). Black men had the highest union membership rate (15.9 percent), while Asian men had the lowest rate (9.6 percent).