U.S. union membership rose less than 1% in 2014

BY ALEJANDRA CANCINO
CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Union membership in the U.S. rose by less than 1 percent in 2014 to 14.6 million, according to figures released Friday by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

As a percentage of the workforce, union representation of workers fell to 11.1 percent last year from 11.3 percent in 2013. More than 20 percent of workers belonged to a union in 1983.

Union membership among public-sector workers last year stood at 35.7 percent, more than five times the 6.6 percent rate of private-sector workers.

Unions are turning to partnerships with labor groups and worker centers and are funding new efforts to attract members in industries traditionally ignored by unions.

One of the most visible campaigns is the Service Employees International Union-backed Fight for $15, which is pushing to raise the wages of service workers, including in fast food and retail, to $15 per hour.

At the same time, antiunion groups are lobbying for so called right-to-work work laws that allow workers represented by unions to choose not to pay dues.

The number of workers who are not union members but are represented by unions rose slightly to 1.6 million from 1.5 million last year.