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New York City and State Unionization Rates Rise in 2013-14, Reversing Previous Trend

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Ruth Milkman,
New York City and State Unionization Rates Rise in 2013-14, Reversing Previous Trend

NEW YORK, Sept. 2, 2014 —Today, researchers from the City University of New York released the fifth annual study of unionization trends in New York entitled, The State of the Unions:  A Profile of the 2013-2014 Union Membership in New York City, New York State and the USA.  This year's report highlights the fact that the unionization rates in the State and City have risen, reversing a seven-year downward trend. Union density rose this year to 24.6 percent in New York State and 24.0 percent in New York City. The increases were concentrated in the private sector, especially in the construction, real estate, and hotel industries.  In New York, construction, building services and hotels are industries that have long been sites of relatively high unionization, in which employment has rebounded recently after falling sharply during the Great Recession.
Professor Ruth Milkman of The Graduate Center, CUNY, who co-authored the report, observed, “Amidst the relentless decline of unionism nationwide, we were surprised to see the recent growth in union density in New York City and State.” She added, “This reflects post-recession employment growth in historically unionized industries like hotels, building services, and especially construction.”
"It is too early to tell whether this uptick in union density reflects a long-term trend, but the growth is a promising sign for New York's workers," said Dr. Stephanie Luce, the report co-author.  "The data show once again that union membership greatly improves workers’ wages."
The study analyzes U.S Current Population Survey data to explore variations in the composition of unionized labor by industry, gender, educational attainment, age, race and ethnicity, and immigration status.  The report reveals many surprising differences between unionization patterns in New York City and State, as compared to the nation. Key findings include:
  • New York ranks first in union density among the nation's fifty states, with a unionization rate of 24.0 percent it is more than double the U.S. average of 11.3 percent in 2013-14.  
  • New York City and State unionization rates rose in 2013-14, in contrast to the nation as a whole, where the rate was unchanged from the previous year.  The increases were largely concentrated in the private sector:  In New York City, private-sector unionization rose from 12.9 in 2012 to 16.2 percent in 2013-14; statewide the increase was more modest, from 13.3 to 15.1 percent.
  • In New York State and in the U.S. the unionization rate among females is slightly lower than among male, but in New York City, the female rate surpasses the male one.  This reflects the high levels of female employment in several large and highly unionized industries in New York City – such as educational services, health care and social assistance.
  • In New York City, New York State and the nation alike, African Americans have the highest unionization rates. In New York City and State, Latinos are the second most unionized racial/ethnic group, whereas non-Hispanic whites are the second most unionized group nationwide.
  • In New York City, the unionization rate among immigrants is equal to that of U.S.-born workers, although this is not the case in New York State or nationally.  This reflects the City's long history as a gateway for immigrants.  Nationally, foreign-born workers who arrived in the U.S. before 1990 were twice as likely to be unionized than those who arrived after 2000.
  • In New York City, workers born in Italy, Pakistan, the Philippines, Honduras, Barbados, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Columbia Guyana, and Ghana had higher unionization rates than U.S.-born workers.
The report was written by Ruth Milkman, professor of sociology at the Graduate Center, CUNY and Research Director of CUNY's Joseph S. Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies, and Dr. Stephanie Luce, professor of Labor Studies at the Murphy Institute.  The report is published by the Murphy Institute, the CUNY Center for Urban Research and the New York City Labor Market Information Service at the CUNY Graduate Center.
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The Graduate Center (GC) is the principal doctorate-granting institution of the City University of New York, offering more than thirty doctoral degrees from Anthropology to Urban Education. The Graduate Center also offers an interdisciplinary Master of Arts in Liberal Studies and several courses of study leading to a terminal Master of Arts degree. In addition to rigorous academic training in the humanities, sciences, and social sciences, the Graduate Center fosters globally significant research across the faculty and in a wide variety of centers and institutes. Through its extensive public programs—lectures, conferences, performances, exhibitions, and conversations—the Graduate Center contributes to New York City’s intellectual and cultural life affirming  an unwavering commitment to the premise that knowledge is a public good.  The Graduate Center is home to a core faculty of approximately 150 teachers and mentors, virtually all senior scholars, many leaders in their disciplines, and more than a third holding the rank of Distinguished Professor—the University’s highest academic honor. Further, as the only consortium of its kind in the nation, the Graduate Center draws upon more than 1,600 faculty from across the CUNY colleges, as well as from cultural, academic, and scientific institutions throughout New York City.

Submitted on: SEP 2, 2014

Category: Center for Urban Research | Press Room | Sociology