Overall union membership dropped by about 400,000 members from 2011 to 2012, a decline of 11.8 to 11.3 percent of the U.S. workforce. But the worst news for union leaders is where the decline occurred: in what had been their only growth sector, government workers.
More than half of the loss came among government workers. The majority of union members are now government workers and government workers have a union membership rate of 37 percent, about five times higher than the private sector.
An irony for private-sector labor unions has always been that their larger ideological aims of protecting workers from abuse are often at odds with their more urgent objectives of growing membership rolls and increasing dues payments.