Union membership plateaued in 2023 despite high-profile strikes

The percentage of wage and salary workers who were union members in 2023 was little changed from the previous year, despite high-profile strikes that dominated several news cycles.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the union membership rate at 10 percent in 2023, down from 10.1 percent in 2022. The number of union members, 14.4 million, stayed roughly flat, adding only 139,000 last year, a small share of the 2.7 million jobs added.

The data comes after a year of high-profile organizing efforts, including a months-long strike by the Writers Guild of America, whose efforts were soon joined by the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

The United Auto Workers (UAW), Teamsters, and a large alliance of health care workers all also engaged in organizing efforts that gained significant media attention.

Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor Julie Su praised the new union membership data, noting there was a total of 400,000 union workers added in the last two years under the Biden administration.

“The gains under the Biden-Harris administration underscore President Biden’s commitment to being the most pro-worker, pro-union president in history,” Su said in the statement.

“We have seen large private sector increases in unionization among health care workers, transportation and warehousing workers, and in educational services. These are workers who recognize that they have power and are organizing to use that power. Workers in health care, auto manufacturing, transportation, entertainment and more have delivered big wins at the bargaining table in the past year,” she added.

She stressed the Biden administration’s commitment to union workers and their right to organize, even as obstacles often present themselves on federal and state levels.

“The President always says that unions built the middle class — and he is right. And it will take unions to re-build the middle class. These increases in union membership are a sign that we are moving in the right direction,” Su said.

“We know there is a tremendous amount of work still to be done.”

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