Eye Opener: Union rate among feds holds steady
Happy Monday! The percentage of union members in the federal workforce essentially stayed flat in 2009 compared to the previous year, while the actual number of union members on the federal payroll grew slightly, according to new figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Twenty-eight percent of federal workers were union members in 2009, compared to 28.1 percent in 2008, the agency said. The total number of unionized workers climbed slightly to more than 1 million, versus 994,000 the year before. The actual number surpassed the percentage growth because the federal workforce grew by more than 50,000 in 2009, BLS said.
The number of federal workers represented by unions -- or dues-paying union members and other employees whose jobs are covered by union contracts -- also climbed slightly to 33.2 percent, up two-tenths from 2008.
BLS said that more public sector employees (7.9 million) belonged to unions than private sector workers (7.4 million). Put another way, local, state and government workers made up 51.5 percent of all union members in 2009. Nationally, union membership dropped by one-tenth of a percentage point to 12.3 percent thanks to rising unemployment, BLS said. Union membership has declined by 2.5 million people since BLS started compiling membership numbers in 1983.
Federal worker unions remain an influential political force on Capitol Hill, especially among Washington-area lawmakers whose states and districts are home to millions of current and former federal employees and their families. But the slow rate of union growth should once again concern union leaders, who've fretted openly about the government's impending "brain drain" and the difficulty of recruiting newer, younger workers less prone to join unions.
One note: The percentage and total number of union members on the federal payroll could climb noticeably in the coming years if the Obama administration or Congress grant collective bargaining rights to Transportation Security Administration workers.
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