Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Unions gained more members in 2008: Labor Dept

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Union membership in the United States rose in 2008 for the second straight year, accelerating a turnaround begun in 2007 that followed decades of decline, the government reported on Wednesday.

Union members accounted for 12.4 percent of employed wage and salary workers in 2008, up from 12.1 percent in 2007, said the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That increase meant the number of workers belonging to a union rose by 428,000 to 16.1 million, said the annual report.

There was a slight upturn in the union membership rate in 2007, to 12.1 percent from the 2006 level of 12.0 percent.

Despite two years of increases, unions still represent a much smaller proportion of U.S. workers than they did at their peak of power and influence in the mid-1950s, when about 26 percent of the workforce was unionized.

"It's been a pretty steady decline over the past three decades," said Steve Hipple, an economist at the bureau.

But the latest data represent "sort of a reversal of the decline over the past couple of years," he said.

The upturn in union membership comes as President Barack Obama and fellow Democrats in Congress move to push through pro-labor policy initiatives. Unions were major supporters of Obama and the Democrats in the 2008 elections...........

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