Press Release United States Workers

This May Day Shows Hints of Future Labor Union Membership Growth

April 29, 2022

Contact: KL Conner, 202-281-4159Mail_Outline

Washington — As the world celebrates International Workers Day on May 1st, US workers are starting to see recent union organizing efforts ripen into triumphs.

When the annual data on union membership in 2021 was released early this year, CEPR noted that membership shares dropped to 2019 levels after a notable rise in 2020. CEPR researcher Hayley Brown commented, “Though it is disappointing that 2020’s uptick in union density did not continue in 2021, it would be a mistake to assume that 2021 marked a return to business as usual for the labor movement.”

As this year progresses, that prediction is starting to unfold. 

Brown’s new article, A May Day Assessment of Union Membership in the United States, weaves the most up-to-date union membership data with current actions by workers and policymakers to document unionization by the numbers, but with an eye open for how those numbers might look in the near future.

The 2021 union membership share declined to 10.3 percent. The number of union members also fell by 241,000. But 2021’s Striketober is now showing up in other data, like the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). 

The NLRB Fiscal Year 2022 reports that union representation petitions increased by 57 percent compared to the same period last year. That does not include April’s stunning union election win by the Amazon Labor Union in Staten Island.

Brown indicates there are significant barriers to union organizing that policymakers can reverse. The proposed legislation, Protecting the Right to Organize Act and the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, could better protect a worker’s right to form a union and negotiate a contract.

Inspired by workers at Amazon, Starbucks, and elsewhere, Brown says, “Their perseverance, and the promise it holds for the labor movement in the US, is certainly cause for celebration this May Day.”

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