The first observation of Labor Day was probably on 5 September 1882, when some 10,000 workers amassed in New York City for a parade, according to the Census Bureau. To this day New York continues to have the highest union membership rate at 23.6%, while South Carolina continues to have the lowest at 1.6%. (Does the KKK, recently associated with the Charlottesville violence, constitute a Labor Union? No Tweets from Trump on this. So far.) The Union movement is one clear way to reestablish the middle class.
The NYC parade prompted similar events across the country. By 1894 more than half the states were observing a “workingmen’s holiday” on one day or another. Later that year, Congress passed legislation and President Grover Cleveland signed into law on 29 June that the first Monday in September was designated “Labor Day.”
Today as then, the labor movement and workers continue to face fearsome opposition from some wealthy people – if not most. One need only to look at failed UAW organizing efforts at southern transplants to see that organized labor is under continual attack. (New VW SUV Goes to Chattanooga. UAW forms a Local. Further State Subsidies in Anti-Union South in Doubt?, Top IndustriALL Heads Say VW is Against Union Rights, UAW Denounces US House Passage of Fast Track, Globalization Comes at last to Unions. UAW Growing in South?, Appeals Court Affirms Right to Organize at Mercedes-Benz, Unions Discuss Transatlantic Organizing, Nissan to Build $2 Billion Plant In Aguascalientes Mexico, Mississippi Leaders blast Nissan for Its Anti-Union Efforts, Unions Sue Renault-Nissan Alliance in Three Countries,)
Labor Day is a creation of the labor movement during the late 19th century, of course– struggling then as now against the extremely wealthy owners, Wall Street, Too Big to Fail Banks with a new destructive twist added by venture capitalists who feed off the carcass of the companies they kill and pick apart. Labor Day pays homage to the communal and economic achievements of workers in America. It will be the workers of America who rebuild Texas, not the billionaires who will reap the plentiful harvest of Trump’s proposed tax cuts.
Who We Are Honoring
Nonetheless, 159.8 million people age 16 and over were in the nation’s labor force as of May 2017. The largest occupations by employees: Retail salespersons 4,528,550; Cashiers 3,541,010; Combined food preparation and serving workers, 426,090 including fast food; Office clerks, general 2,955,550; Registered nurses 2,857,180; Customer service representatives 2,707,040; Laborers and freight, stock and material movers, hand 2,587,900; Waiters and waitresses 2,564,610; Secretaries and administrative assistants, except legal, 2,295,510; General and operations managers 2,188,870*
From 2014 to 2024 in the occupation expected to add the greatest number of positions over the period is personal care aides (458,100). The medical sector, Medicare and Medicaid are – of course – under attack by the Republicans.And the only discernible job creation under the Trump White House is the number of lawyers hired to represent a tawdry set of administration workers and friends of Trump allegedly mired in the ongoing Russian scandal, possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, election tampering, and possibly collusion withe the Russians or treason.
Al this while the economy slowly recovers form the Wall Street induced Great Recession. The number of paid employees (for the pay period including March 12) who worked for a gasoline station in the United States in 2015 was 921,654. Oregon (11,003 paid gasoline station employees) and New Jersey (18,095 paid gasoline station employees) are the only states without self-service gasoline stations. Oregon was the first state to make Labor Day a holiday in February 1887.
Union Members — 2016
The union membership rate, the percentage of wage and salary workers who were members of Unions, was 10.7% in 2016, down 0.4 percentage point from 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions, at 14.6 million in 2016, declined by 240,000 from 2015. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1%, and there were 17.7 million union workers.
Highlights 2016 data:
- Public-sector workers had a union membership rate (34.4%) more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers (6.4%).
- Workers in education, training, and library occupations and in protective service occupations had the highest unionization rates (34.6% and 34.5%, respectively).
- Men continued to have a slightly higher union membership rate (11.2%) than women (10.2%).
- Black workers were more likely to be union members than were White, Asian, or Hispanic workers.
- Median weekly earnings of nonunion workers ($802) were 80% of earnings workers who were union members ($1,004).
Occupation of Union Members
In 2016, 7.1 million employees in the public sector belonged to a union, compared with 7.4 million workers in the private sector. The union membership rate for public-sector workers (34.4%) was substantially higher than the rate for private-sector workers (6.4%). Within the public sector, the union membership rate was highest for local government (40.3%), which includes employees in heavily unionized occupations, such as teachers, police officers, and firefighters. In the private sector, industries with high unionization rates included utilities (21.5%), transportation and warehousing (18.4%), telecommunications (14.6%), construction (13.9 percent), and educational services (12.3%). Low unionization rates occurred in finance (1.2%), agriculture and related industries (1.3%), food services and drinking places (1.6%), and professional and technical services (1.6%).
Among occupational groups, the highest unionization rates in 2016 were in education, training, and library occupations (34.6%) and in protective service occupations (34.5%). The lowest unionization rates were in farming, fishing, and forestry occupations (2.2%); sales and related occupations (3.1%); computer and mathematical occupations (3.9%); and food preparation and serving related occupations (3.9%).
Characteristics of Union Members
In 2016, the union membership rate continued to be slightly higher for men (11.2%) than for women (10.2%).) The gap between their rates has narrowed considerably since 1983 (the earliest year for which comparable data are available), when rates for men and women were 24.7% and 14.6%, respectively.
Among major race and ethnicity groups, Black workers continued to have a higher union membership rate in 2016 (13.0%) than workers who were White (10.5%), Asian (9.0%), or Hispanic (8.8%). By age, union membership rates continued to be highest among workers ages 45 to 64. In 2016, 13.3% of workers ages 45 to 54 and ages 55 to 64 were union members. The union membership rate was 11.8% for full-time workers, more than twice the rate for part-time workers at 5.7%.
In 2016, 16.3 million wage and salary workers were represented by a union. This group includes both union members (14.6 million) and workers who report no union affiliation but whose jobs are covered by a union contract (1.7 million).
Among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had median usual weekly earnings of $1,004 in 2016, while those who were not union members had median weekly earnings of $802. In addition to coverage by a collective bargaining agreement, this earnings difference reflects a variety of influences, including variations in the distributions of union members and nonunion employees by occupation, industry, age, firm size, or geographic region. and of course the right to work for less under “Right to Work” states.
Union Membership by State
In 2016, 27 states and the District of Columbia had union membership rates below that of the U.S. average, 10.7%, while 23 states had rates above it. All states in the West South-Central division had union membership rates below the national average, and all states in both the Middle Atlantic and the Pacific divisions had rates above it. Union membership rates decreased over the year in 31 states and the District of Columbia, increased in 16 states, and were unchanged in 3 states.
Nine states had union membership rates below 5.0% in 2016, with South Carolina having the lowest rate (1.6%). The next lowest rates were in North Carolina (3%), Arkansas (3.9%), and Georgia (3.9%). New York was the only state with a union membership rate over 20.0% in 2016 at 23.6%. State union membership levels depend on both the employment level and the union membership rate.
The largest numbers of union members lived in California (2.6 million) and New York (1.9 million). Over half of the 14.6 million union members in the U.S. lived in just 7 states (California, 2.6 million; New York, 1.9 million; Illinois, 0.8 million; Pennsylvania, 0.7 million; and Michigan, New Jersey, and Ohio at 0.6 million each), though these states accounted for only about one-third of wage and salary employment nationally.
- Union Members Technical Note
- Table 1. Union affiliation of employed wage and salary workers by selected characteristics
- Table 2. Median weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers by union affiliation and selected characteristics
- Table 3. Union affiliation of employed wage and salary workers by occupation and industry
- Table 4. Median weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers by union affiliation, occupation, and industry
- Table 5. Union affiliation of employed wage and salary workers by state
- Access to historical data for the tables of the Union Members News Release
*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Largest occupations in the United States, May 2016 www.bls.gov/oes/2016/may/area_emp_chart/area_emp_chart.htm