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Date: Aug 30, 2007
Major New Study of Unionization in New York City and Long Island Finds Union Gains, But Sharp Differences in Trends
Long Island Nearing NYC in Union Coverage Rates
Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY – Union membership has increased in both New York City and Long Island since the late 1990s, though at different rates that barely keep pace with overall employment. That’s one surprising conclusion of The State of New York Unions 2007, a new report by Hofstra’s Center for the Study of Labor & Democracy (CLD), released on the 125th Labor Day anniversary.
In the first detailed analysis of recent unionization trends in the New York metropolitan area, the report finds that the number of New York City residents in labor unions rose by 65,455 – an 8.3 percent increase – between 1997-99 and 2004-06. Today, about 26.4 percent of New York wage and salary workers belong to a union. Long Island experienced a much smaller 0.7 percent increase in union membership; its 317,450 union members account for 23.5 percent of all employees (the “union density rate”). As a result, the broader New York-Northern New Jersey metropolitan area has the highest union density rate – 23.3 percent – of any major metro area – and far above the 12 percent rate nationwide.
However, the city’s membership gains have not fully kept up with overall employment growth, resulting in a slight drop (one-half percentage point) in the union density rate since the late 1990s. And it remains well below the late 1980s level, when 34.4 percent of employed New Yorkers were in unions. In contrast, over the same period on Long Island, the unionization rate has remained remarkably stable, thereby shrinking the gap between city and suburb.
"These new findings show a surprising resilience in many New York unions that have succeeded recently in growing their membership just enough to avoid the national trend of declining unionization rates,” said Hofstra Professor of Economics Gregory DeFreitas, CLD’s director. “But, even in the country’s most highly unionized metro area, unions’ organizing efforts and wage gains have not been enough so far to close the enormous gap between the average worker’s rising productivity and stagnating real wages.”
Underlying the trends in both union membership and in the slightly broader union coverage rate (including non-members covered by union contracts) are often marked variations in unions’ fortunes among workers differentiated by gender, race and ethnicity, immigrant status, hours of work, public-private sector, and industry. New female union workers accounted for 92 percent of the total rise in union coverage in New York City, and 100 percent of the coverage increase on Long Island. While the city’s union coverage rate has fallen among men from 29.2 in the late 1990s to 26.2 percent today, the female rate has jumped ahead from 28.3 to 29.2 percent over the same period. On Long Island, union contracts now cover 28.6 percent of men and 24.6 percent of women workers – and the gap between them has been cut in half since the late 1990s.
Immigrant workers have also registered large gains in union coverage since the late 1990s, adding 58,317 to the overall net coverage increase in New York City. The entire increase was among foreign-born citizen workers, of whom 34.4 percent now have union coverage – a rate twice that of non-citizens. The difference is even greater on Long Island: 25.4 percent of naturalized citizens are covered, compared with just 10.9 percent of non-citizens. But there too, the net increase in coverage among immigrants was positive: + 6,163.
"Our findings illustrate that, while female and new immigrant workers can pose special challenges to workplace organizing, they have been central to recent union growth," said Dr. Bhaswati Sengupta, CLD's assistant director and an assistant professor of economics at Hofstra.
Among major age groups in New York City, only older workers aged 45 and over have experienced any sizable growth in union membership since the late 1990s. The number of 25-to-34 year-olds in unions actually fell by 11,000, but was more than offset by union gains among their elders. On Long Island, only those 55 and over recorded more union membership: their large 38.3 percent rise (+17,162) in membership barely offset the 15,096 drop in the number of younger members. The decline in unionization among the young, though largely driven by shifting demographics, raises questions about unions’ future growth prospects in the region.
For more information on this report, please contact: Dr. Gregory DeFreitas at (516) 463-5040, firstname.lastname@example.org; or Dr. Bhaswati Sengupta, (516) 463-5599, Bhaswati.Sengupta@ hofstra.edu, or:
Center for the Study of Labor & Democracy
200 Barnard Hall, 104 Hofstra University
Hempstead, NY 11549
To download a PDF copy of the full report (available on Labor Day, 9/03/07), go to “Working Papers” at: www.hofstra.edu/cld
The Center for the Study of Labor and Democracy (CLD) is a nonprofit research institute that aims to expand public understanding and discussion of important issues facing working people. CLD pursues a distinctive interdisciplinary research approach designed to produce policy-relevant studies of labor problems and institutions, extending from the local Long Island and New York City labor markets to national and global labor issues.
Hofstra University is a dynamic private institution where students find their edge to succeed in more than 140 undergraduate and 155 graduate programs in liberal arts and sciences, business, communication, education and allied human services, and honors studies, and a School of Law.