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NEW: Despite National Decline, RI Sees Increased Union Membership

Thursday, January 24, 2013

 

The number of American workers who belong to a labor union has dropped to a record low nationwide but in Rhode Island as the opposite may be true.

According to figures released this week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the Ocean State was just one of 14 states in the country to see a rise in its union membership rate from 2011 to 2012 as an increase in the total number of people employed helped boost the percentage of those listed as members of union from 17.4 to 17.8 and those represented by unions from 17.9 to 18.4 percent.

While it is a notable change, URI Economist Dr. Leonard Lardaro takes issue with the figures used and says that soon-to-be-released data will more accurately portray the status of unions in Rhode Island and, most likely, fall closer in line with nationwide data overall.

 “The 2012 employment figure for RI understates the correct (and soon-to-be-released) payroll employment number,” Lardaro said. “So, presuming a correct number of union persons in RI and an understated employment figure for 2012, it should not come as any surprise that the unionization percentage rose. When the new, revised employment data are released next month, a recalculation this unionization ratio will show that it is lower than the figure currently in the BLS table, and it is not difficult to imagine that the "corrected" ratio shows a decline from its value in 2011.”

Nationwide, union membership declined by half a percentage point, from 11.8 to 11.3 overall, and the rate of union membership in the public sector fell by more than a full percentage point, from 37 to 35.9 percent.

All told, 79,000 of Rhode Island’s 453,000 total employees were members of unions in 2011. That figured increased to 81,000 of the state’s 455,000 total employees for 2012. Those represented by unions rose from 81,000 to 84,000 over the past year.

New York had the highest union membership rate in the country as 23.2 percent of its workforce were members of a union and 24.9 percent were represented by one, while North Carolina had the smallest share of union members in its workforce, with a union membership rate of just 2.9 percent.

The BLS report found that education, training, and library occupations had the highest unionization rates, at 35.4 percent.

In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent, and there were 17.7 million union workers. In 2012, there were 14.4 million union workers nationwide.
 

 

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