The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

January 24, 2011
Union membership falls in California and nationally

The percentage of U.S. workers who were union members fell again last year, according to new data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, California's union membership ranks fell slightly, although the percentage of Golden State union members increased owing to heavier employment losses in non-union jobs,

Nationally, the rate of wage and salary workers who were union members dropped to 11.9 percent, down from 12.3 percent in 2009, according to this press release. The number of employees belonging to unions declined by 612,000 to 14.7 million.

By comparison, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent and there were 17.7 million union workers in 1983 when the government started tracking the trend.

The percentage of union members in local, state and federal government jobs fell from 37.4 percent to 36.2 percent. Union membership in the private sector dropped from 7.2 percent to 6.9 percent. Click here and scroll to the bottom for more national data about public sector unions.

California's union membership rate went from 17.2 percent in 2009 to 17.5 percent in 2010, according to this table released on Friday.

Although the number of union members in the Golden State fell by 22,000 -- a decline of about 1 percent to that subset -- California shed about 3 percent of workers who weren't union members or represented by a union. That raised the percentage of union members in the state, even though their actual numbers fell.

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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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