10:40 AM Eastern - Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Changing Face of Labor: More Women, More Diversity

According to a new study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, women will be the majority of unionized workers by 2020.


How's an abundance of estrogen changing things? "Because of women, we don't just talk about raising wages, but about creating family friendly workplaces with sick leave, child care, and family and medical leave," said Change to Win Chair and SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger. "We don't just talk about out-of-control insurance costs, but about the fact that women pay more than men strictly because of their gender."

Some of the report's other findings:


  • Nearly 40 percent percent of all union workers have college degrees. Almost half (49.4 percent) of union women had at least a four-year college degree.
  • More educated workers were more likely to be unionized than less-educated workers, a reversal from 25 years ago.

Public Sector & Growth

  • Just under half of all union members come from the public sector, up from just over one-third in 1983.
  • Union ranks have increased slightly over the past two years, and members now represent 12.4 percent of the nation's work force.


  • Latinos are the fastest growing ethnic group in the labor movement.
  • About one-in-eight (12.6 percent) of union workers is an immigrant, up from one-in-twelve in 1994
  • In 1983, the majority (51.7 percent) of all union workers was white men; by 2008, white men were only 38.1 percent of the unionized workforce.
  • The typical union worker was 45 years old, or about 7 years older than in 1983. The most heavily unionized age group was in the age range of 55-64.

"The view that the typical union worker is a white male manufacturing worker may have been correct a quarter of a century ago, but it's not an accurate description of those in today's labor movement," said John Schmitt, a CEPR Senior Economist and an author of the report. Read the study.

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