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Union density cracks 30% again. That's the good news.

A report from the Canadian government suggests that union density (of non-agricultural, paid workers) went up over 30% again, hitting 30.8% in 2010, up from 29.9% in 2009.  As well, union membership hit a new high of 4.645 million, almost 600,000 more than in 2000. 

That's the good news.  

The bad news is that the increase in union density is a one year break in a long decline from 32.2% density in 2000.  Moreover, the increased density in 2010 mostly reflects a shrinking workforce, occasioned by the poor economy.  If the workforce had even stayed the same in 2010 as in 2009, the density would be only 30.2%.   

Union Membership in Canada, 2000–2010

YearUnion Membership
Labour Force*
Paid Workers*
Union Membership
as a Percentage of Civilian
Labour Force
Union Membership as a Percentage of Non-Agricultural Paid Worker
* Statistics Canada, The Labour Force Survey, Labour Statistics Division
Note: Civilian labour force and non-agricultural paid employment data shown for each year are annual averages of the preceding year; data shown for union membership are as of January of the years shown and as reported by labour organizations.
Source: Strategic Policy, Analysis, and Workplace Information Directorate. Labour Program, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.

CUPE remains the largest union by a considerable margin.  Some of the (primarily) private sector unions report they have not been as hard hit as one might have thought. The Steelworkers report an impressive sounding 280,000 members and the Food and Commercial Workers report 245,327. 

Labour Organizations with Largest Membership—2010

Name of AffiliationMembership
Canadian Union of Public Employees - CLC601,976
National Union of Public and General Employees - CLC340,000
United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union - AFL-CIO/CLC280,000
United Food and Commercial Workers Canada - CtW/CLC245,327
National Automobile, Aerospace, Transportation and General Workers Union of Canada (CAW Canada) - CLC195,000
Public Service Alliance of Canada - CLC188,462
Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada - CLC128,564
Fédération de la santé et des services sociaux - CSN122,193
Teamsters Canada - CtW/CLC113,851
Service Employees International Union - CtW/CLC92,781
Alberta Union of Provincial Employees - Ind.79,004
Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario - CLC73,325

National unions based in Canada now account for 67.3% of union membership (68.8% including directly chartered Canadian locals).

Composition of Unions—2010

Type of UnionUnionsMembership
Independent Local Organizations26334.1178,6253.8
Directly Chartered Unions29037.667,7301.5

Just under half of the total union membership are in the 9 unions with over 100,000 members.  Another 209 unions account for the other 50%. 

Table 5: National and International Unions by Size—2010

under 9996724,21673,1897427,405
100,000 and over*61,576,1953639,17892,215,373
Note: Directly chartered and independent local unions are not included.


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