January 29, 2009

U.S. union membership grew in 2008

Union membership in the United States rose in 2008, its first sizable increase in 25 years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said.

Union membership rose from 12.1 percent to 12.4 percent of the workforce -- in solid numbers adding 428,000 card carrying union members to the ranks last year, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

About 16.1 million U.S. workers now belong to a union.

Membership, however, has been on a long decline, dropping since the 1950s, when roughly a third of the U.S. workforce belonged to a union, the Post said.

Proponents and opponents of a bill in Washington that is meant to make it easier for workers to join a union spun the new figures to suit their causes.

The so-called card-check bill would allow workers to organize if 50 percent of the workers at a company sign a card indicating support.

Union advocates point to the upswing in membership to show the vitality and need for organized labor. But, opponents of the bill say the increasing numbers of union members proves the bill is unnecessary.