January 28, 2009
The Washington Post (complete article) reports that for the first time in the 25 years it’s been measured, union membership has shown a statistically significant increase. They report that in 2008: union members represented 12.4 percent of employed workers, up from 12.1 percent a year earlier, according to a report from Bureau of Labor Statistics issued this morning. Until last year, union membership had generally been in a slow and steady decline since the 1950s.
The Post reports several different possible causes—and here’s a particularly revealing one: “Part of what I think is happening is that the economy is shrinking but union jobs are not being shed because they have union contracts,” said Jim Walker, an economist with the Bureau of Labor Statistics who worked on the new figures.
And doesn’t that say it all? In tough economic times, in times of job uncertainty—-if you have union, you have job protection. There are lots of reasons that more and more workers are choosing to join unions, including good benefits, better wages, and a say in the workplace-—but I can’t think of a better one during an economic crisis than job security.