Fewer Carry Union Cards

Monday, March 19, 2007

Union membership continues to decline nationwide, with 12.0 percent of wage and salary workers belonging to a union in 2006, compared to 12.5 percent in 2005.

In the Washington region, that decline is relatively most pronounced in Virginia, where 4.0 percent of workers belonged to unions in 2006, down from 4.8 percent in 2005. Virginia is one of five states with union membership below 5 percent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics analysis, which covers the past 18 years, shows the rate has declined steadily from a high of 9.3 percent in 1992.

In the District, the rate of union membership dropped to 10.3 percent from 11.3 percent in 2005. Maryland's percentage of full-time workers with union membership declined to 13.1 percent from 13.3 percent in 2005.

Several factors have contributed to the decline in union membership. Some states, including Virginia, have "right to work" laws that grant non-union members many of the benefits given to paying members, which unions say reduces the incentive to join. Also, Gerald Perrins, a regional economist for the BLS, notes that union membership is falling because of a decline in occupations such as manufacturing.

-- Cecilia Kang

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