Report: State union membership grows 8% from 2012 to 2013

Nassau County union workers rally outside the site Nassau County union workers rally outside the site of the NIFA meeting at the Marriott Uniondale on March 10, 2014, as NIFA was preparing to vote on wage freeze for county employees. Photo Credit: Newsday / Chuck Fadely, News 12

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Unions in New York State added 145,000 members last year, the first increase since 2007, new federal data show.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Thursday that the ranks of private-sector and government unions in the state totaled nearly 2 million in 2013, a gain of 8 percent from a year earlier.

However, union membership is still below its recent high of 2.1 million, which was recorded in 2005.

Asked for the reasons behind organized labor's growth, bureau officials speculated that workers may feel more comfortable joining a union because of improvements in the job market.

The state AFL-CIO, an umbrella group of unions, also wasn't sure what had caused the membership rise, although it was pleased to see a reversal of years of declines.

"The increase in New York's union membership is encouraging, not just for the labor movement, but for all who want a stronger middle class in our state," said state AFL-CIO president Mario Cilento. "History has shown higher rates of union membership lead to better wages, benefits and conditions of employment for all workers."

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New York remains the most unionized state in the country. More than 24 percent of all hourly and salaried workers here are union members, compared with 11.3 percent nationwide.

The percentage of union members in the workforce in New York increased, year over year, more than 1 percentage point in 2013.

Bureau officials said New York State has had the highest rate of unionization for 17 of the past 19 years. Organized labor also is strong in Alaska and Hawaii.

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The lowest rate of unionization was in North Carolina and Arkansas, respectively.

The bureau also reported Thursday that 118,000 New Yorkers who are not union members are covered by unions in the workplace.

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