January 23, 2013

Unions suffer steep decline in membership

Sam Hananel / The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The nation's labor unions suffered sharp declines in membership last year, led by losses among public sector workers in cash-strapped states, cities, counties and towns.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the unionization rate fell from 11.8 percent to 11.3 percent of all workers, the lowest level since the 1930s.

Total union membership fell by about 400,000 workers to 14.4 million. Teachers unions were among the hardest hit, with the ranks of public school teachers and educators falling sharply.

Unions also saw losses in the private sector, even as the economy expanded modestly. The private sector unionization rate fell from 6.9 percent to 6.6 percent.

Unions have steadily lost members since their peak in the 1950s, when about one of every three workers was in a union.

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