Jan 31, 2024 - News

Colorado's labor union membership grows for third straight year

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Note: Values are not seasonally adjusted; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Note: Values are not seasonally adjusted; Chart: Axios Visuals

The share of Colorado workers in labor unions rose for the third straight year in 2023, even as the share of unionized employees across the U.S. hit a new low, according to new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Why it matters: Advocates say unions are a needed proponent of worker rights and compensation, while critics say unions throttle progress in the workplace, Axios' Nathan Bomey reports.

State of play: A flurry of union action is sweeping through the state.

By the numbers: 6.9% of Colorado's workforce was part of a union last year, up from 6.7% in 2022 and 6.5% in 2021.

  • That translates to 189,000 unionized local employees in 2023, or 11,000 more than the previous year.

Yes, but: Colorado's share of union members remains below the national average of 10%.

  • In the last two-plus decades, the state has only outpaced the nation once — when it hit a high in 2018 of 11% of the workforce unionized compared to 10.5% nationally.

The intrigue: Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill last year, despite concerns about its impact on employers, that prohibits public employers from retaliating against employees for participating in public sector unions or political activities outside of work.

  • State lawmakers also passed a bill in 2022, which went into effect last July, that expands bargaining power for public employees.
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