Young Workers Lead Unions’ Growth

At your next family get-together, youthful members of the “millennial” generation just might have something in common with their elders – union cards.

  • Unions Growing Again: Last year, the nation’s total number of union members grew by 262,000. And three-quarters of these gains (198,000) were among workers aged 34 and under, even though these young people account for less than 40 percent of total employment.
  • Young Workers Make History: In 2017, only about 7.7 percent of workers 16–34 were union members, compared with 12.6 percent age 35 and older. After many years of young people having lower union-membership rates than older workers, younger workers are now driving a historic shift. Of the 858,000 net new jobs for workers under 35, almost one in four (23 percent) was a union job.
  • Strength Amidst Uncertainty: Having entered the workforce during the last recession, younger workers are joining and organizing unions in order to gain strength and security in an uncertain economy. As the Economic Policy Institute reports, younger workers face the part-timing of jobs, stagnant wages, unpaid internships, contract work, diminishing benefits, and “noncompete” clauses that make it more difficult to move to better jobs.