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Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Organized labor in the U.S. - back to the early 1900s

The percentage of American workers who are members of unions dropped to 12.5% in 2004, the New York Times reported the other day. That includes public-sector workers. The rate for private-sector workers is a mere 7.9%, "the lowest level since the early 1900s."

American unionization levels peaked at nearly 35% in 1945. This compared favorably with the West German peak of 36% in 1951, it should be noted, although the U.S. and Germany have obviously diverged on this dimension since the 1950s.
Steven Greenhouse, "Membership in Unions Drops Again," New York Times, 1/28/05. For the American peak: Paul Boyer, ed., The Oxford Companion to United States History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 429; for the West German peak: Wendy Carlin, "West German Growth and Institutions, 1945-90," in Economic Growth in Europe Since 1945, ed. Nicholas Crafts and Gianni Toniolo (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 467.

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