Skip to main content

Union Membership Numbers Reflect Broken Labor Laws

Social share icons

(Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 2022)—Today’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) annual report on union membership makes it clear that American labor laws are unquestionably broken. While the report indicates a 0.5% drop in union membership from 2020–2021, the data is not representative of the greater union trends taking place across the country. These statistics highlight the urgent need for the passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act and the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act.

“In 2021, workers forcefully rejected low-wage, thankless jobs after a year of being called essential,” said AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler. “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.”

In the past year, millions of Americans have left the workforce for numerous reasons, including a lack of access to affordable child, elder and differently-abled care, as well as an unwillingness to sacrifice their health and safety for low-paying jobs with substandard benefits. Unions are the best solution to this crisis by ensuring that workers have access to safe working conditions, fair pay and health benefits, and collective bargaining rights.

The BLS report also shows promising data for communities of color. Black workers continued to have the highest unionization rate in 2021, with 12.9% membership. According to an EPI study, Black union workers are paid 13.7% more than their nonunionized peers.

According to a 2021 Gallup poll, union approval is at its highest level in over 50 years, with 68% of Americans supporting organized labor, including 77% of young people. An MIT study found that 60 million Americans would join a labor union if they could, underscoring the need for changes to labor laws.