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New data on workers belonging to unions, 1986.

New data on workers belonging to unions, 1986

An estimated 17 million wage and salary employees were union1 members in 1986, unchanged from 1985. In comparison, union membership declined an average of about 817,000 a year between 1979 and 1983 and 361,000 a year between 1983 and 1985.

Because of the increase in total wage and salary employment --from 94.5 to 96.9 million--union members as a proportion of all wage and salary employees fell from 18.0 to 17.5 percent between 1985 and 1986.

Union membership and employment data were obtained from the Current Population Survey (CPS), conducted by the Bureau of the Census for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The CPS compiles data on workers identified by their membership in unions or by their representation at work by a union, whether or not they were members. The data covered only employed wage and salary workers, not those who were self-employed, retired, or laid-off.

Industry. Two of the eight major industry groups--Federal, State, and local government and transportation, communications, and public utilities--had union membership proportions approximately double the 17.5 percent national average. Manufacturing and construction also had higher proportions than the national average, 24 and 22 percent, respectively. In mining, the proportion of union members was the same as the national average. Among the other industry groups (wholesale and retail trade; services; and finance, insurance, and real estate), union membership was less than 8 percent of employment.

Occupation. Operators, fabricators, and laborers (including machine operators, assemblers, transportation workers, cleaners, and helpers) and precision production, craft, and repair were the most heavily unionized major occupational groups, with 30 and 29 percent union membership, respectively. Membership rates were less than 15 percent among the other major occupational groups.

Demographic characteristics. While a larger proportion of male workers than female workers belonged to unions (22 and 13 percent, respectively), the pattern of union membership proportions by age bracket was similar for both men and women. The proportion of workers belonging to unions was smallest for workers age 16 to 24 for both men and women (9 and 5 percent, respectively). As worker age rose, so did the percentage belonging to unions, with the highest unionization rate occurring for both men and women in the 45- to 64-year-old bracket.

Earnings. Full-time workers represented by unions had higher median usual weekly earnings than those without representation ($439 compared with $325). This relationship existed in 6 of the 8 major industry groups (exceptions were mining and finance, insurance, and real estate) and among the occupational groups (with the exception of managerial and professional specialty workers). Similarly, among black and white workers of both sexes, those covered by a collective bargaining agreement had higher weekly earnings than those that were not represented.

For detailed data, see Larry T. Adams, "Union Membership of Wage and Salary Employees in 1986,' Current Wage Developments, February 1987, pp. 3-8.

1 "Union' is defined to include traditional labor unions and employee associations that represent employees in collective bargaining.
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Title Annotation:research summary
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:May 1, 1987
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