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Union membership in Canada increases (despite claims otherwise)

The Globe and Mail (regurgitating in today's print edition claims from the Canadian Press) gets it wrong in a story about the labour movement and the new private sector union, UNIFOR.  They claim that "Union membership has declined in Canada in recent years".  In fact, as the easily available Statistics Canada chart copied below shows, union coverage has grown by 164,000 employees from 2008 to 2012, growing in 3 out of the last 4 years.

Union coverage
(Thousands)
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
Total employees, covered and not covered by union
Total employees, all industries 
14,464.30
14,124.40
14,371.20
14,635.80
14,841.10
Public sector
3,412.10
3,415.00
3,511.10
3,563.00
3,600.80
Private sector
11,052.20
10,709.40
10,860.20
11,072.70
11,240.30
Union coverage
Total employees, all industries
4,512.80
4,444.40
4,532.60
4,562.20
4,676.80
Public sector
2,530.50
2,541.40
2,629.90
2,638.60
2,684.20
Private sector
1,982.30
1,903.00
1,902.70
1,923.60
1,992.60
No union coverage
Total employees, all industries 
9,951.50
9,680.10
9,838.60
10,073.60
10,164.30
Public sector
881.6
873.6
881.2
924.4
916.6
Private sector
9,069.90
8,806.50
8,957.50
9,149.20
9,247.70

Stats Can CANSIM Chart 282-0078

Despite the recession, even private sector unionism grew by 10,300.

As a percentage of the workforce, union coverage has increased very slightly, from 31.2% in 2008 to 31.5% in 2012.

The media outlets also exaggerate the dominance of public sector unionization, claiming that "The public sector makes up the vast majority of union employees."  In fact public sector union membership made up 57% of union membership in 2012 with the private sector comprising 43%.

"Vast majority"? Hardly.

Perhaps they meant to point out the major difference in union density between public and private sector unionism  - that, at least, would be true (a much higher percentage of public sector workers are unionized compared to the percentage of private sector workers).   

Certainly it is true that bringing  private sector union density back to former levels is important for labour (and public sector workers have almost as much stake in that project as private sector workers). But the Globe and CP claim is quite misleading. 

Is it too much to ask the corporate-owned media to get the basics about unionism right?

Happy Labour Day and congratulations to UNIFOR for their founding convention.

Photo: Welcome to the new, large private sector union, UNIFOR, which was founded over the Labour Day weekend through the merger of CEP and CAW. Logo courtesy of nouveausyndicatdirect.ca




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