Today’s release of the annual union membership numbers by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in this economic recovery, people are either seeking out good union jobs or taking matters into their own hands by forming unions to raise wages and ensure that new jobs are good jobs.
In 2014, workers made great strides and confronted great challenges, including major organizing wins at American Airlines, multiple state legislative victories on the minimum wage and innovative campaigns conducted by carwash workers, among others. We recognize, however, that right-wing billionaires’ extremist politics, a rapacious Wall Street and insufficient advocacy from political leaders thwarted further progress.
In the State of the Union this week, President Obama celebrated the fact that our economy has benefitted from 58 consecutive months of job growth and reiterated the need for laws that strengthen unions and give workers a voice. But the most important question is not simply how many jobs we’re creating, but are we creating jobs that raise wages for all? A strong recovery must be built on family-sustaining, not poverty-level jobs. Today’s news confirms what most of us already knew: workers are finding good union jobs despite political ideologues — and jobs are coming back as the economy slowly rebounds, but neither are nearly enough.
Key trends include:
- Union density edged up for workers 16 to 24 from 4.2 to 4.5%
- Public sector union density growth largely due to women
- Union density growth in Leisure and Hospitality
- Union membership increased among Latino men
- Largest growth, 1.8% among Asian American women
- Union membership increased for Black women and men
- Black men and women remain the groups with the highest union density
Noteworthy 2014 Worker Wins
- More than 92,000 workers chose to join AFSCME, including 20,000 home health care workers who were recently the target of Harris v Quinn. This was double AFSCME’s organizing goal for the year.
- 14,500 customer service agents who work for American Airlines voted for union representation with CWA after the merger with US Airways. This victory was especially significant for 9,000 former American Airlines agents who have been part of a 19-year long organizing effort.
- Workers at an Alabama Copper parts plant voted to organize as members of the United Steelworkers despite extensive political intimidation and efforts by Governor Robert Bentley to dissuade workers from unionizing.
- Mechanics, technicians, and maintenance personnel at the Red River Army Depot near Texarkana, TX successfully organized into the IAM. This victory follows successful campaigns by workers earlier in the year where 925 employees joined the union at the Corpus Christi Army Depot in Corpus Christi, Texas.
- Nurses and hospital workers voted to form unions at two hospitals in Connecticut. The workers, who will be represented by AFT Connecticut, had to overcome attempts by hospital administrators to intimidate the workers.