This is my annual roundup of labor data on union membership, elections and strikes. How is the labor movement doing?

At the beginning of each year a bunch of annual U.S. labor data is released and this is a good time to see what it tells us about how the labor movement is doing. We’ll examine data on union membership, NLRB elections, BLS large strike data and FMCS private sector strike data. My summary from last year can be found here.

Union Membership

In January, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its annual Union Members Summary. Labor movement…

I revisit the construction of Morningside Gardens and the labor issues reported in the co-op’s documents at the time. This project provides a fascinating window into labor relations in that era of peak union membership and power.


Since 2008, my spouse and I have lived in Morningside Gardens, a housing cooperative in New York City. Established in 1957, it is located in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan and has six 21-story residential buildings with nearly 1,000 apartments.

Morningside Gardens arose from the federal 1949 Housing Act. The era was marked by a wave of projects to create affordable cooperative and public housing in New York City. …

I look at a range of labor movement actions and resources that have developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic disaster. The coronavirus crisis reminds us that workers must organize to save themselves.

AFL-CIO, Workers Memorial Day

Well over a month into an unprecedented U.S. corona pandemic lockdown era, unions, worker centers and other organized groups of workers have been key vehicles to improve health and safety on the job, get critical PPE, increase essential worker “hazard” pay, obtain paid leave, shut down unsafe worksites, and address other related issues.

With nearly one million U.S. COVID-19 cases and more than 50,000 deaths

The NLRB is proposing to eliminate union organizing and collective bargaining rights for student employees. Here I tell the NLRB some reasons why that’s wrong.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) proposes to eliminate the rights of student employees at private universities to organize a union and bargain collectively under the National Labor Relations Act, with the argument that they are not really “employees.” This is part of the Trump NLRB’s anti-worker campaign. The proposed rule is published here.

I have experience as a graduate student employee and union member from my years at the University of Michigan and have…

In the four years since the union election rules changed, the election time period has been two weeks shorter, and the union win rate increased by more than 3%.

In 2014, Obama’s NLRB adopted a number of rule changes that were intended to streamline how union elections were conducted. These changes followed a lengthy NLRB rule-making process which received tens of thousands of comments and went into effect in April, 2015. Perhaps the most important result was that the time period between the filing of a union petition and the election would be shorter. That’s why this rule change was…

Following a big increase last year, the number of large strikes in the U.S. continues to rise, with 15 in just the first half of 2019.

Strikes are Back?

In a widely recognized sign of a reviving labor movement, the number of large work stoppages in 2018 rose dramatically and was the largest in many years.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publishes the list of large work stoppages that begin each year, defined as either strikes or lockouts of at least 1,000 workers for at least one shift, and the list has mostly strikes. The work stoppage numbers…

I explored the history of our coop supermarket, which was in business from 1958–1991. We also had a credit union from 1965–1980. What happened with these organizations and why did they close?

NOTE: This is an article that recently appeared in the Morningside Gardens News, the newsletter of my housing cooperative in New York City. An expanded and updated version can be found here.

2018 was an interesting year for the U.S. labor movement, with the continuing downward trend in membership but an increase in strike militancy that may lead to membership growth in the future.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its annual report of union membership and, as usual, the numbers don’t look so good, with a slight decline in the union membership rate.

The union membership rate — the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of unions — was 10.5 percent in 2018, down by 0.2 percentage point from 2017, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported…

An analysis of NLRB data from decades ago showed unions how to win elections against even tough employer union-busting campaigns. Is this still relevant today?

The Labor Movement Acknowledges its Crisis

After finishing graduate school I went to work in the labor movement in 2000 as a researcher and have spent the last 18 years doing union research, organizing and bargaining campaign work, policy analysis and similar projects.

That was a time when unions were in the middle of a renewed conversation about organizing, prompted by the election of the “New Voice” leadership at the AFL-CIO in 1995. A consensus…

In 2018, the number of union elections fell to nearly 1,000, the lowest level in 80 years, almost the entire era of the National Labor Relations Act

The labor movement has been in decline for decades and its traditional strategy to revive and grow has been organizing around National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) union elections. How is that going?

The NLRB election data for fiscal year 2018 is out and I took a look at the last five years to see recent union elections results. Here is the number of RC elections (where the union files for representation and official…

Eric Dirnbach

Labor Movement Researcher, Activist, Campaigner, Organizer, Educator, Writer & Socialist, based in New York City. @EricDirnbach

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store