When you think unions, being of a certain generation, you may hold some yesteryear vision that the typical union worker manufacturers something, somewhere deep in the bowels of a factory rife with health threatening tasks. It’s the classic vision that union advocates want you to think of, and one that I default to.
But the numbers don’t lie. More union workers work for government jobs than in your private sector employment. Which means that they work for us, as in we the people, rather than some mindless corporate profiteering entity unconcerned with worker safety.
The New York Times reports:
For the first time in American history, a majority of union members
are government workers rather than private-sector employees, the
Bureau of Labor Statistics announced on Friday.
In its annual report on union membership, the bureau undercut the
longstanding notion that union members are overwhelmingly blue-collar
factory workers. It found that membership fell so fast in the private
sector in 2009 that the 7.9 million unionized public-sector workers
easily outnumbered those in the private sector, where labor’s ranks
shrank to 7.4 million, from 8.2 million in 2008.
“There has been steady growth among union members in the public
sector, but I’m a little bit shocked to see that the lines have
actually crossed,” said Randel K. Johnson, senior vice president for
labor at the United States Chamber of Commerce.
According to the labor bureau, 7.2 percent of private-sector workers
were union members last year, down from 7.6 percent the previous year.
That, labor historians said, was the lowest percentage of
private-sector workers in unions since 1900.
Among government workers, union membership grew to 37.4 percent last
year, from 36.8 percent in 2008.