Union membership dropped in 2021, this week in the war on workers



Union membership as a percentage of all U.S. workers dropped from 10.8% to 10.3% in 2021, returning to its 2019 level. The bump in 2020 is instructive, since it came because, in the mass job loss of the pandemic, more nonunion workers lost their jobs. But the lousy numbers for union membership are also important to understand in the context of popular opinion and U.S. labor law. Because public approval of unions is at its highest point since 1965, according to a 2021 Gallup survey. 

The AFL-CIO pointed to the latter factor in responding to the new numbers. “In 2021, workers forcefully rejected low-wage, thankless jobs after a year of being called essential,” AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler said in a statement. “In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clearer now than ever that our labor laws are designed to make joining a union as difficult as possible. Across this country, workers are organizing for a voice on the job and millions of Americans are standing in solidarity with union members on strike. If everyone who wanted to join a union was able to do so, membership would skyrocket. The PRO Act and the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act are how we get there.”


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