May Day State of the Union(s)

Union Strong

May 01, 2023

Today’s International Workers Day gives us an opportunity to take stock of the U.S. labor movement, as well as the state and federal policies in place that curb unions’ power. 

2022 saw the lowest union membership share on record – just 10.1 percent of the workforce belonged to a union. That grim data point can be attributed in part to hostile policies that favor management at the expense of workers and install little to no penalty for even illegal action by employers. But the news isn’t all bad – young workers have high rates of enthusiasm for unions, and they are the only group whose membership share increased from 2019 to 2022. Union representation has particular advantages for these young workers, as well as for Hispanic workers. 

We need pro-worker policy reforms, and we need organized labor to cultivate sustained outreach to the groups for whom unions confer particular advantages – namely, young workers and Hispanic workers. Congress must pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act to remove current obstacles to organizing, legislation like the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act for public sector workers, and adequately fund the National Labor Relations Board. 

The latest reports from CEPR’s Hayley Brown on union membership and the U.S. labor movement overall can be found here, here, here, and here.

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