Union Membership Falls in 2003 to 12.9% of Workforce

Date: May 3, 2004
The proportion of U.S. workers who belong to labor unions continued a 20-year decline in 2003 as union membership among wage and salary workers dropped to 12.9 percent from 13.3 percent in 2002, the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on January 21, 2004. Union membership fell both as a percentage of the workforce and in the number of workers belonging to unions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data. Membership in 2003 declined by 369,000 to 15.8 million, BLS said. Most of the decline was in the private sector, where membership fell from 8.8 million in 2002 to 8.45 million in 2003. In percentage terms, 8.2 percent of private sector workers belonged to unions in 2003, down from 8.6 percent the year before. Public sector unions lost 22,000 members, although the rate of unionization was virtually unchanged, falling from 37.3 percent in 2002 to 37.2 percent in 2003.