The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

January 28, 2009
Union membership grew in 2008

The Bureau of Labor statistics reports today that union membership grew last year to 12.4 percent, up from 12.1 percent in 2007. It was the second year in a row of union growth.

The union membership nationwide increased by 428,000 to 16.1 million. That's still well below the level of union membership the government reported in 1983, the first year for which data is available. That year, 20.1 percent of workers were in a union, about 17.7 million people.

California has 2.74 million union members, about 18.4 percent of the state's employed workers. Another roughly 169,000 employees are covered by union bargaining agreements, bringing total union representation in the state to 19.5 percent.

Other highlights noted by the BLS:

  • Government workers were nearly five times more likely to belong to a union than were private-sector employees.
  • Workers in education, training, and library occupations had the highest unionization rate at 38.7 percent.
  • Black workers were more likely to be union members than were white, Asian, or Hispanic workers.
  • Among states, New York had the highest union membership rate (24.9 percent) and North Carolina had the lowest rate (3.5 percent).

Click here for far more details, tables and charts about union membership.

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at


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