PRIVATE SECTOR NUMBERS GREW BY 191,000

WASHINGTON (PAI): Private sector unions added 191,000 members in 2023, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’s annual 60,000-household survey calculated. Net, all unions—private and public—added 152,000 members.

Reflecting the union movement’s increasing dynamism and attraction—including the attractions of higher wages–most of that growth was in young workers, union leaders noted.

But while private-sector unions added members, the workforce grew even faster, recovering from the coronavirus-caused depression under the former Republican Trump regime.

When that depression hit, union members lost jobs, especially in bars, restaurants and the hospitality industry, which virtually shut down, plus state and local governments. But non-union firms shed workers even faster, so union density increased, even if numbers didn’t.

But last year, as the recovery accelerated, so did union numbers and so did the workforce. As a result, union density overall—public and private—was 10% last year, down one-tenth of one percent from the year before. Hotel workers rose, from 85,000 (7.3%) to 95,000 (7.4%).

And despite new emphasis on organizing the South, in 2023 almost 30% of all unionists were in California (2.514 million, down 103,000) and New York (1.711 million, up 32,000).

The BLS numbers have several caveats, statistical and otherwise. One is BLS counts only those workers who are union members (14.424 million last year, up 139,000 net)  and covered by union contracts but who are non-members.

That means workers whom unions successfully organized—such as the 5,000 workers at Amazon’s warehouse on Staten Island and 8,000-plus workers who have self-organized at Starbucks stores nationwide—aren’t included in the BLS numbers yet.

Their bosses, defying both their workers and labor law, refuse to bargain with them, much less sign first contracts.

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