Who's in the union?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics report, 11.8 percent of workers counted themselves amongst the ranks of organized labor in 2011, almost half the number recorded in 1983 -- the first year that data was available. Here, a union worker stands in the road at the front gate of the Rio Tinto Borax mine on the day after mine owners locked out about 540 employees and called in replacement workers, on Feb. 1, 2010 in Boron, Calif.

The pulse is up today on news that the 30-year precipitous drop in union membership has plateaued.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics report, 11.8 percent of workers counted themselves amongst the ranks of organized labor in 2011, almost half the number recorded in 1983 -- the first year that data was available.

But, here's what we thought was interesting: that number is "essentially unchanged" from 2010.

The drop in union membership over the past three decades is largely attributed to the loss of manufacturing and, more recently, construction jobs. Also of note, government employees like teachers and police officers are the most heavily unionized workers, recording membership rates over five times higher than those in the private sector.

And finally, following on the legacy of unionized jobs of the past, baby boomers were the most likely age group to belong -- indicating, perhaps, that while the overall figure rests on a plateau, a cliff may lie ahead when those near-retirement workers leave their collectively bargained jobs.

About the author

Karl Baker joined Marketplace in January of 2012. Before coming to New York, he worked as a commercial fisherman, an English teacher, and a part-time reporter for KBCS radio. He's also currently a student in business and economic reporting at NYU.

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