Saturday, January 21, 2006

Unions kept pace with growing U.S. workforce in 2005

Unions kept pace with growing U.S. workforce in 2005
By Peter Szekely

WASHINGTON, Jan 20 (Reuters) - The number of workers belonging to labor unions rose last year for the first time in six years, as union membership kept pace with a growing American workforce, the U.S. Labor Department said on Friday.

The number of union members rose by 213,000 to 15.7 million in 2005, the first increase since 1999, the department's Bureau of Labor Statistics said in an annual report.

Unions' share of the workforce was unchanged at 12.5 percent in 2005, as the number of union members grew at the same rate as the number of all wage and salary workers, which includes managers and executives who are ineligible for union membership under federal labor law.

The news was welcomed by the AFL-CIO, the country's largest labor federation, which has long complained that hard-core tactics by many nonunion employers, including illegal measures like firing union activists, has intimidated many workers who would like to have a union.

"In a political climate that's hostile to workers' rights, these numbers illustrate the extraordinary will of workers to gain a voice on the job despite enormous obstacles," AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said in a statement.


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