February 3, 2021
The overall rate of union membership has been declining for years and reached a low of 10.3% in 2019 before climbing to 10.8% in 2020. However, the increase in 2020 caused a big drop in largely non-union private sector jobs, while union member jobs in the public sector were hit far less hard. Thus, the recession caused the percentage of union jobs to increase in 2020.
The unions are finding it increasingly more difficult to penetrate the private sector. As shown below, amongst private sector workers only 6.3% belonged to unions in 2020.
Unions have been far more successful in penetrating the various levels of government where the union membership rate for 2020 was 34.8% or five times as high as in the private sector. Why have unions been so successful in the public arena? Probably because of a perception that government workers are underpaid and, therefore, in need of union assistance in attaining their fair share of the pie.