Government workers accounted for 48.9% of union members in 2015

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( — The percentage of American wage and salary workers who belonged to a union was only 11.1 percent in 2015, but the percentage of union members who worked for government was 48.9 percent, according to data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“The union membership rate–the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of unions–was 11.1 percent in 2015, unchanged from 2014,” the BLS said in press release published today.

But the 7,241,000 government workers whom the BLS estimates were members of unions in 2015 equaled almost half of the estimated total of 14,795,000 union-member wage and salary workers in the nation.

And these unionized government workers outnumbered the Census Bureau’s estimated 2015 populations for all but 12 of the states.

The 7,241,000 unionized government workers, for example, exceeded the populations of Washington (7,170,351), Arizona (6,828,065), Massachusetts (6,794,422) Indiana (6,619,680) and Tennessee (6,600,299).

The BLS has comparable data on union membership going back to 1983 and the percentage of wage and salary workers who belong to unions has generally been declining since then.

The highest percentage in any year in the 1983 through 2015 period was in 1983 itself. That year there were approximately 17,717,000 wage and salary workers who were members of unions and they equaled 20.1 percent of the total of 88,290,000 wage and salary workers estimated that year.

In 2012 and 2013, the percentage who belonged to unions was 11.3 percent. In 2014 and 2015, it was 11.1 percent.

Of the approximately 133,743,000 wage and salary workers employed in the United States in 2015, according to BLS, 14,795,000 were members of a union. (See Table 1.)

But of those 14,795,000 union members, 7,241,000—or 48.9 percent—worked for government. (See Table 3.)

Of the estimated 14,576,000 union members in 2014, 7,218,000—or 49.5 percent—worked for government.

Government wage and salary workers were far more likely to belong to a union than private-sector wage and salary workers, the BLS reported.

“Public-sector workers had a union membership rate (35.2 percent) more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers (6.7 percent),” the BLS said in the press release that accompanied the release of the data.

Union membership was most prevalent among local government workers.

On the federal-government level, said BLS, there were approximately 3,591,000 wage and salary workers and 979,000 — or 27.3 percent — were union members.

On the state-government level, there were 6,875,000 wage and salary workers and 2,079,000 — or 30.2 percent — were union members.

On the local-government level, there 10,126,000 wage and salary workers and 4,183,000 — or 41.3 percent — were union members.

— Written by Terence P. Jeffrey