New York State AFL-CIO president Mario Cilento on May 9,...

New York State AFL-CIO president Mario Cilento on May 9, 2013, in Albany. Credit: AP / Mike Groll

Unions in New York State gained 58,000 members last year, a reversal of the decline recorded between 2013 and 2014, according to new federal data.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last week the ranks of private-sector and government unions in the state totaled 2 million, up 3 percent from a year earlier.

Union membership has fluctuated in recent years.

There was a decline of 6,000 members between 2013 and 2014, and an increase of 145,000 between 2012 and 2013. The latter was the first increase since 2007.

However, union membership remains below its recent high of 2.1 million in 2005.

The expansion of union rolls coincided with an increase in the number of people employed in New York State. The total workforce statewide grew by 189,000 people last year, or 2.3 percent over 2014.

The bureau said New York remains the most unionized state in the country, with 24.7 percent of all employed people belonging to unions. Another 2.1 million workers who are not union members are covered by unions in the workplace.

Mario Cilento, president of the state AFL-CIO, an umbrella group of unions, hailed the membership gain, saying, “The labor movement provides the best way for working people to get ahead; particularly at a time when our economy is so out of balance. We remain committed to fighting for all working people to help grow the middle class.”

New York has led the nation in the rate of union membership for 19 of the past 22 years, according to the bureau.

Organized labor also is strong in Hawaii and Alaska. It is weakest in South Carolina and Utah.

Nationwide, union members accounted for 11.1 percent of all workers last year, unchanged from 2014. That’s the lowest rate since this set of records began in 1983, the bureau said.

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