Professional Union Membership Grows, But Not as Fast as Jobs

WASHINGTON—The number of professional workers who are union members reached a record high of 6.27 million in 2019, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics’ annual report released Jan. 22. The news was a bright spot for organized labor in a year where union membership declined from 10.5% to 10.3% of the workforce, as organizing failed to outpace growth in the workforce. “Professionals are continuing to join unions,” AFL-CIO Department for Professional Employees President Jennifer Dorning said in a statement. Last year’s modest gains, she added, clearly demonstrated “continued opportunities to grow the labor movement.” Union membership among professional and technical workers is largely concentrated in education and health care, with fledgling organizing efforts among tech workers and digital journalists beginning to bear fruit. Legal services, architecture, engineering, and computer services are largely unorganized. The AFL-CIO said that its research shows that a majority of the 50 million nonunion professionals would support a union in their workplace, but obstacles include their lack of knowledge about unions and weak legal protections for workplace rights. “Unions can overcome this challenge by putting out the welcome mat and speaking to the unique needs of professionals,” said Dorning. Read more


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