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Union membership in U.S. companies slumped to a record low last year as the recession eroded employment in industries where organized labor represents the workforce, the Labor Department reported. Labor unions represented 6.9 percent of employees in companies last year, down from 7.2 percent in 2009, according to data released today. Union rolls shrank to 7.1 million, led by a drop in the construction industry, where membership fell to 13.1 percent of workers from 14.5 percent a year earlier, the agency said. “Today’s numbers are a telling indication of the fundamental imbalance in our nation’s economy,” said Kimberly Freeman Brown, executive director of American Rights at Work, a Washington-based group seeking to make it easier for workers to unionize. The group said “union membership levels fell drastically.”
Total union membership, including public employees, fell to 11.9 percent of the workforce from 12.3 percent in 2009, the agency reported. Unions represented 36.2 percent of workers in public-sector jobs.
Union representation has declined since 1983, the first year the agency collected the data, when 20.1 percent of the U.S. workforce and 16.8 percent of company workers were organized.