Bureau of Labor Statistics Report "Union Members 2002"

Unions Suffer Dramatic Losses

News Release
February 25, 2003
For Immediate Release
Contact: David Denholm
Phone: 703-242-3575
Fax: 703-242-3579
E-mail: publicsrc@erols.com

The Bureau of Labor Statistics' report on Union Membership in 2002 shows American labor unions suffering a loss of 280,000 members in 2002. A loss of 445,000 union members on private payrolls was masked by an increase of 165,000 in public sector unionism.

Union membership as a percent of the workforce declined from 13.4 percent in 2001 to 13.2 percent in 2002. In 2002, employment on private payrolls fell by 723,000 while public employment grew by 248,000. Union density in the private sector fell from 8.9 to 8.5 percent while in the public sector it increased from 37.2 to 37.5 percent. As a result of these changes, the percent of the total union movement made up of public employees skyrocketed from 43.8 percent in 2001 to 45.6 percent in 2002.

Public Service Research Foundation president David Denholm noted that two years ago AFL-CIO president John Sweeney told his colleagues, "if we don't begin to turn this (membership decline) around quickly and almost immediately, the drift in the other direction is going to make it virtually impossible to continue to exist as a viable institution and to have any impact on the issues we care about."

"These new figures are just one more indication that the working people of America have rejected the unions' counterproductive, adversarial, us against them approach to employer-employee relations," said Denholm

As yet there is no indication whether based on the most recent report Mr. Sweeney has concluded that it is time to admit that the union movement is no longer viable.

The Public Service Research Foundation is an independent research and education organization that studies unionism and union influence on public policy.

Changes in Employment and Union Membership 2001 - 2002
National Employment (Numbers in thousands)




Union Members (Numbers in thousands)



Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics release of February 25, 2003

Technical Note: The information in the BLS report is based on new weights in the Current Population Survey from the 2000 Census. The 2001 figures have been revised to reflect the new weights.

The source of this report is the Public Service Research Foundation, Vienna, Virginia. For further information please call 703-242-3575.