US union membership rate in 2022 hit record low despite campaigns at high-profile companies

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Union membership in the United States plummeted to all-time lows in 2022 despite a number of high-profile unionization efforts at companies like Starbucks, Amazon, and Apple, according to a new report. 

Last year, the union membership rate was 10.1%, down from 10.3% in 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Thursday. 

FILE: Amazon JFK8 distribution center union organizer Jason Anthony speaks to media, April 1, 2022, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez / AP Newsroom)

Though the overall number of wage and salary workers belonging to a union increased by roughly 1.9% between 2021 and 2022, it was not enough to keep pace with the cumulative increase of mostly nonunion workers, which was just under 4%. 

This disproportionately large increase in the total wage and salary employment, compared with the increase in the number of union members, led to a decrease in the union membership rate. 

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The 2022 unionization rate, 10.1%, marks the lowest on record. In 1983, the first year when comparable union data are available, union membership rate was just above 20%, with nearly 18 million union workers, according to the report. 

Public-sector workers, like police and teachers, accounted for the highest unionization rates in 2022, at 33%. Just 6% of private-sector workers were unionized.

FILE: Starbucks employees and supporters react as votes are read during a viewing of their union election, Dec. 9, 2021, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex / AP Newsroom)

The apparent dip in union membership came even amid a wave of unionization efforts at major Fortune 500 companies. In the first six months of the 2022 fiscal year, the number of union representation petitions filed increased 57%, according to data from the National Labor Relations Board. 

The AFL-CIO said the latest data doesn’t capture "the surge in worker organizing across every sector, from teaching assistants to barista to museum workers, construction workers, video game developers and many more." 

"With the resurgence of union organizing and unprecedented federal investment in job creation, the labor movement is poised to grow significantly in the coming years," AFL-CIO said. 

Meanwhile, support for unions has been growing. In a survey published in August, Gallup found that 71% of Americans said they approve of labor unions, the highest percentage recorded since 1965.

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Workers at more than 270 U.S. Starbucks stores have voted to unionize over the last year, an effort that Starbucks opposes. Workers at REI and Chipotle followed with their own unionization campaigns. And workers at an Amazon warehouse in New York City voted to unionize last spring, although Amazon workers at a different warehouse in upstate New York later rejected unionization.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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