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Union Membership, Activity, and Compensation in 2022

Union workers with signs, New York, early 1900s
July 2023
Union Membership, Activity, and Compensation in 2022

Kerry Farrell

Did the news about unions strike your interest in 2022? Unions rely on collective action of a group of two or more employees to argue for better wages, benefits, or employment conditions. According to the National Labor Relations Board, the number of union representation elections increased nearly 60 percent in 2022.

In 2022, 10.1 percent of workers in the United States belonged to a union. This Spotlight on Statistics focuses on union membership, strike activity, and compensation in 2022.

Union membership below pre-pandemic levels

Nearly 14.3 million wage and salary workers belonged to a union in 2022, up from 14.0 million in 2021. In 2019, union membership was 14.6 million.

The 2022 union membership rate, the percentage of wage and salary workers who are union members, was 10.1 percent. The union membership rate decreased from 10.3 percent in 2021, as total wage and salary employment grew more than the number of union members.

In the private sector, there were over 7.2 million wage and salary workers who were members of a union in 2022, compared with over 7.0 million in the public sector. Thus, 6.0 percent of private sector, and 33.1 percent of public sector, wage and salary workers were union members in 2022.

23 union-affiliated major work stoppages in 2022

There were 23 strikes or lockouts beginning in 2022, affecting 120,600 workers. All recorded strikes or lockouts were affiliated with union involvement. The number of major work stoppages in 2022 was up from 2020 and 2021, but still below the 25 recorded in 2019. Of the 23 major work stoppages in 2022, 9 were in educational services and 8 were in health care and social assistance.

New trends in employer costs for union and nonunion workers

In September 2021, trends for private industry union and nonunion workers reversed for the first time since December 2012. Nonunion wages and salaries moved higher than those for union workers. In December 2022, employer costs for private industry union workers’ wages and salaries were 3.9 percent higher than a year earlier. The over-the-year increase was also 3.9 percent in December 2021.

Costs for nonunion workers' wages and salaries in private industry were 5.3 percent higher than a year earlier. In December 2021, the increase was 5.0 percent.

Similarly, benefit costs for private union workers increased 3.0 percent from a year earlier, while nonunion benefits increased 5.2 percent. The higher growth rate in the recent year, however, does not necessarily imply a higher dollar amount.

Benefit costs for union workers significantly higher than for nonunion workers

In September 2022, employer compensation costs for private industry union workers averaged $53.20, with wages accounting for 60.1 percent and benefits accounting for the remaining 39.9 percent of compensation. Compensation costs for nonunion workers averaged $38.37, with 71.8 percent going towards wages and 28.2 percent for benefits.

Insurance and retirement benefits costs for union workers higher than all other benefit costs

Total benefits cost employers $21.24 for private industry union workers in September 2022, with insurance benefits accounting for 13.3 percent of total compensation. Nonunion benefit costs averaged $10.81 per hour worked, with insurance benefits accounting for 6.9 percent of total compensation. Paid leave and legally required benefits costs for nonunion workers accounted for 7.5 percent of compensation each.

Nearly all union workers have access to health care benefits

Health care benefits were available to 96 percent of private industry union workers and to 69 percent of nonunion workers. Medical care benefits were also available to 96 percent of union workers, and employers were responsible for 80 percent of the premiums for medical care family coverage. Medical care coverage was available to 68 percent of nonunion workers, and employers were responsible for 65 percent of the premiums for medical care family coverage.

Union worker access to defined benefit retirement plans 5 times the nonunion worker rate

In private industry, 93 percent of union workers had access to a retirement plan, while only 67 percent of nonunion workers had access. Access to defined benefit plans was far more common for union workers with 64 percent of union workers and 11 percent of nonunion workers provided access. Defined benefit plans guarantee a predictable income during retirement, while defined contribution plans can have income fluctuate based on contribution amounts and investment gains or losses.

Flexible workplace and work schedules available to more nonunion workers than union workers

A higher percentage of private industry union workers had access to employee assistance programs and wellness programs than nonunion workers. Access to a flexible work schedule and flexible workplace was more prevalent for nonunion workers. 

For More Information

Kerry Farrell is an economist in the Office of Compensation and Working Conditions, Bureau of Labor Statistics. For questions about this Spotlight, please email

This Spotlight on Statistics looks at data on union membership, work stoppages activity, and compensation data from the Employment Cost Index, Employer Costs for Employee CompensationEmployee Benefits Survey, Work Stoppages program, and Current Population Survey.

In the employment cost and benefits data, workers are classified as union workers when a labor organization is recognized as the bargaining agent for all workers in the occupation, and wage and salary rates are determined through collective bargaining or negotiations. Workers that do not meet these conditions are classified as nonunion workers.

Benefits include (1) paid leave: vacation, holiday, sick, and personal leave; (2) supplemental pay: overtime and premium, shift differentials, and nonproduction bonuses; (3) insurance: life, health, short-term and long-term disability; (4) retirement and savings: defined benefit and defined contribution; and (5) legally required benefits: Social Security, Medicare, federal and state unemployment insurance, and workers' compensation.

The Work Stoppages program defines a major work stoppage as a strike or lockout involving 1,000 or more workers lasting one full shift or longer, Monday through Friday excluding Federal holidays.