Union membership continued to decline last year, according to data released Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The new report said 10.7 percent of wage and salary workers were union members in 2016. That accounted for about 14.6 million workers, or about 240,000 fewer than in 2015.
The data, drawn from the Current Population Survey of the U.S. Census, also indicated that an additional 1.7 million workers were not union members but were covered by collective bargaining agreements negotiated by the union.
That fact is relevant to the current political movement in Missouri to pass “right to work” legislation. Such laws make it easier for workers to opt out of paying union dues but still receive negotiated union benefits.
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The annual statistics report from the Labor Department said union members represented just 6.4 percent of the private-sector workforce, compared with 34.4 percent of public-sector workers.
By one percentage point, men held a slight edge over women as union members.
The highest percentages of unionization were in local governments (40.4 percent), especially for teachers, police officers and firefighters.
The report also focused on earnings of union members compared with nonunion workers. Broadly, the median weekly earnings of union members were $1,004, compared with $802 for nonunion workers, although many variables can affect the numbers.
In the private sector, industries with the highest percentages of union members were utilities (21.5 percent); transportation and warehousing (18.4 percent); telecommunications (14.6 percent); construction (13.9 percent); and educational services (12.3 percent).
The lowest percentages of union membership were found in finance; agriculture and related industries; food service; and professional and technical services.
The labor-backed “Fight for $15” movement includes an effort to unionize food service workers, particularly in the fast food industry.
By age group, union membership was highest among workers ages 45 to 64.
In Missouri,10.7 percent of wage and salary workers were represented by unions last year, as were 10.3 percent of workers in Kansas.