The Labor Department reported Friday that 10.7 percent of all workers belonged to unions in 2017, a number that's unchanged from the historic low set in 2016.
The data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that only 6.5 percent of private-sector workers and 34.4 percent of public sector belonged to unions. This continues a trend in recent years that has made government worker unions among the most powerful in the labor movement.
"[T]he union membership rate was highest in local government (40.1 percent), which employs many workers in heavily unionized occupations, such as teachers, police officers, and firefighters," the BLS noted.
The overall trend remains bad for the labor movement. Just a decade ago, the unionization rate was 12.1 percent. It was 20.1 percent in 1983 when the Labor Department first started compiling the data.
The AFL-CIO, the nation's largest labor federation, nevertheless saw good news in the report, and noted that while unions may have shrunk as a percentage of the workforce, the total number of members actually grew by 260,000 in 2017. It argued that the unions were weathering a hostile political and economic climate.
"In the face of a challenging year, the power of working people is on the rise. Together, we organized historic new unions, stood up to powerful corporations, and won higher wages. But today’s data is more than numbers on a page, it’s a growing movement of working people that can’t be measured as easily," said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.
The BLS data showed that unionized workers did well compared to nonunion ones, getting median weekly earnings of $1,041 compared with $829 for nonunion ones. It cautioned however that the comparison was "on a broad level" and didn't control for any factors that would explain the disparity.