Feb 7, 2024 - Business

California sees dip in share of unionized workers

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

California has one of the nation's highest shares of unionized workers, but that figure dipped last year even as workers at both public and private institutions initiated strikes to demand better working conditions.

Why it matters: Advocates say unions are a needed proponent of worker rights and compensation, while critics suggest they throttle progress in the workplace.

State of play: In California, more than 15% of workers were members of a union in 2023 — a slight dip from the previous year, per the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

  • That's despite approval of unions reaching its highest point in 2022 since 1965, according to Gallup.

By the numbers: California also leads in the share of workers represented by unions at nearly 17%.

  • 16,349,000 are employed.
  • 2,514,000 employed workers are union members.
  • 2,769,000 employed workers are represented by unions.

Zoom in: California was the center of many union activities this past year.

The big picture: The share of American workers who are union members hit a new low in 2023 — now 1 in 10 — although the total count of unionized employees rose slightly.

  • In the U.S., an estimated 14.4 million workers were union members in 2023, up from 14.3 million in 2022 — but the percentage fell because the workforce grew at a faster rate than union membership.

The slight drop in union membership came during a year of significant action for Big Labor that included:

Zoom out: Over 32% of public-sector workers nationwide were members of unions in 2023, compared with 6% of private workers.

  • Men were more likely to be members of a union than women, and Black workers were more likely to be members of a union than white, Asian or Hispanic workers.
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