Although union membership declined nationally according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a closer look by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) revealed a rise in union membership among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs), from 9.4 percent in 2013 to 10.4 percent in 2014, an increase of 96,000 workers. In addition, a higher percentage of AAPI women were unionized (11.3 percent) than women workers overall (10.7 percent).
“AAPI workers are a vital part of the American workforce and our rise in unionization rates reflects the growth, engagement and resilience of our community,” said Gregory Cendana, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) Executive Director. “APALA will continue to organize throughout the country to ensure that unionization rates as well as union leadership continue to reflect the changing diversity of the workforce and country.”
While union membership, which currently stands at 11.1 percent overall, has been on the decline for all other groups, the percentage of immigrants joining unions increased from 8.8 percent in 2013 to 9.2 percent in 2014, an increase of 135,000 workers. Because so many AAPIs are immigrants, 68.7 percent as compared to the overall workforce which is only 16 percent immigrant, the rise in AAPI union membership may be a part of this larger trend.
The difficulty in interpreting this data is that the number of AAPIs sampled was very small and the time frame was only one year. “It may be a one-year blip, so we really need to see what happens over the next couple of years to determine if this is real,” said Nicole Woo, CEPR Director of Domestic Policy. “But on the other hand, this may be the start of a new trend.”
Although the reasons behind the changes are not yet clear, the benefits of belonging to a union are.
“Since unionized AAPI workers earn significantly more and are much more likely to have access to health insurance and retirement plans that their non-union counterparts,” said Woo, “their rise in union membership translates into valuable benefits for many AAPI workers.”