A new report offers a grim look at that the state of labor nationally, but that’s not the whole picture.

by C.M. Lewis, In These Times

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its annual union membership report January 19. The report shows a nationwide decline in the percentage of wage and salary workers who are union members, from 10.3% in 2021 to 10.1% in 2022 — the lowest union membership rate on record since comparable data was first collected in 1983, when the union membership rate was 20.1%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

But the annual report, compiled with the use of the Current Population Survey, leaves out what some labor advocates say is a critical piece of information: evidence suggests an estimated 60 million workers would vote to join a union if they could.

Teachers on strike and protesting in downtown Chicago

The fact that tens of millions of workers want to join a union and can’t is a glaring testament to how broken U.S. labor law is,” the Economic Policy Institute asserts in response to the BLS report. ​It is urgent that Congress pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act and the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act. State legislatures must also take available measures to boost unionization and collective bargaining.”

According to worker advocates, the PRO Act would reform wide portions of the National Labor Relations Act that make it difficult for workers to organize. It would also override so-called right-to-work legislation. The less heralded Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, most recently reintroduced by Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) in 2021, would federally mandate that states provide bargaining rights for public sector employees.

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