BLS: A Record 88% of America’s Construction Industry Does Not Belong to a Union
According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics’ annual Union Members Summary released Jan. 19, 2023, the percent of construction industry wage and salary workers belonging to unions dropped to a record low of 11.7%, a decline from 12.6% in 2021.
Analysis of BLS data found that a historically high 88.3% of the U.S. construction industry workforce––8.671 million people––did not belong to a union in 2022. Additionally, there has never been a smaller percentage of union members in the construction industry since the BLS began tracking this data in 1973.
“Year-over-year construction industry union membership dropped despite robust overall job growth, suggesting that new construction industry workers are not enthusiastic about joining a union when given a choice to do so,” said ABC Vice President of Regulatory, Labor and State Affairs Ben Brubeck. “This illustrates why the Biden administration should not continue to advance controversial policies specific to the construction industry that require its workers to join a union and/or pay union dues, as well as contribute into union benefits plans, as a condition of employment on a taxpayer-funded federal construction project.”
“For example, President Biden’s anti-competitive and inflationary Executive Order 14063, which requires federal agencies to mandate anti-competitive and wasteful project labor agreements on federal construction projects of $35 million or more—and other policies promoting PLAs on federally assisted state and local government infrastructure projects—are expected to result in more infrastructure jobs for unionized contractors and more jobs for union members at the expense of taxpayers and the 88.3% of the U.S. construction workforce that freely chooses not to join a union,” said Brubeck. “In contrast to the past two years, President Biden would be better off creating policies that invite all of America’s construction workforce to compete for infrastructure work on a level playing field, regardless of labor affiliation.”
Research has found that PLA mandates increase the cost of construction by 12% and 20% and result in the confiscation of 34% of a nonunion construction worker’s compensation package unless they join a union and become vested in union plans.
“Instead of encouraging unions to improve their product and value proposition to employees, contractors and developers, President Biden continues to implement administrative and regulatory actions favoring unions––and push legislation such as the PRO Act––in an effort to increase union membership, which is in historical decline,” said Brubeck.
Construction unions lost 5,000 members over the past year, decreasing from 1.024 million members in 2021 to 1.019 million members in 2022. That’s despite the fact that the construction industry grew by 514,000 workers, from 8.157 million in 2021 to 8.671 million in 2022.
Union membership as a percentage of the construction industry has steadily declined throughout the last 75 years. In 1947, approximately 87% of its workforce was unionized. During the lowest point of the construction industry’s recession in 2010, just 801,000 construction industry workers belonged to a union (13.1%), the smallest number of union members in recent history.
State-specific union membership information for various U.S. industries, including the construction industry, is available at Table III of unionstats.com. The website has not published state data for 2022 yet. PowerPoint maps of the below images for 2021 data are available here.