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Statement on Annual Bureau of Labor Statistics Union Membership Report

Data Reveals Significance of Unions to Workers, Need for the Employee Free Choice Act

January 28, 2009

Josh Goldstein
202-822-2127 x118
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WASHINGTON, DC— According to the annual report of union membership released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), union workers’ share of the workforce increased from 12.1 in 2007 to 12.4 in 2008. This increase demonstrates that workers see unions, and the higher job standards, benefits, and protections they provide, as a key solution in this struggling economy. The uptick further points to the strengths of unionized workplaces—where labor and management work together as a team, they are able to tackle challenges and better withstand an economic downturn.

However, this data does not provide a measure of how many workers are forming unions, a number that has been on the decline for years because of the increased opposition workers face from employers when trying to organize. Additional steps like passage of the Employee Free Choice Act are necessary to ensure that all of America’s workers can exercise their legal right to form unions.

Following the BLS report’s release, American Rights at Work Executive Director Mary Beth Maxwell issued the following statement:

“These numbers show that Americans understand the role unions play in improving working families’ standard of living, particularly in our downturn economy. However, many more workers want unions but are stymied in their efforts to form them. In fact, 60 million workers say they would join a union today if they could. Unfortunately, 94 percent of employers resist their workers’ efforts to form unions, and 25 percent even fire pro-union workers during organizing campaigns. We can only expect a meaningful increase in union membership and a restored middle class when men and women are able to truly exercise their federally-protected right to form a union.

Enacting legislation such as the Employee Free Choice Act will help level the playing field and give workers a free choice about forming a union again – so they can bargain for fair pay and health care. With a new president and vice president, and a majority in Congress who support the Employee Free Choice Act, more working families should soon have a fair shot at achieving the American Dream.”

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American Rights at Work – http://www.americanrightsatwork.org – is the nation's leading labor policy and advocacy organization dedicated to educating the American public about the barriers that workers face when they attempt to exercise their rights to freely and fairly form unions and engage in collective bargaining.