Federal unions, except postal groups, grow as other labor organizations decline
The story of America’s declining union membership is a continuing saga that makes labor leaders wince.
The latest chapter in that story was revealed last week when the Bureau of Labor Statistics released figures showing the percentage of workers who are union members now stands at just 11.3 percent, the lowest level since 1983, when the government began collecting comparable data. Then, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent.
But federal unions, except for U.S. Postal Service labor organizations, have a different story. By most indications, they are strong and growing.
In May of fiscal year 2012, 1.2 million federal employees were in a bargaining unit, according to the Office of Personnel Management. That’s an increase of almost 98,000 since 2002.
Federal employees are joining unions because the workers want a greater say in their working conditions. Federal labor organizations don’t negotiate pay, as private-sector unions do, but they can provide a way for employees “to participate in solving agency problems,” said Robert M. Tobias, director of public-sector executive education at American University. Tobias also is a past president of the National Treasury Employees Union.