Originally created 01/26/99

Union membership rises by 100,000 in 1998



WASHINGTON -- Union membership rose by more than 100,000 in 1998, an increase over the previous year that the AFL-CIO attributed to more aggressive organizing. At the same time, the percentage of workers represented by organized labor slipped.

The Labor Department reported Monday that union membership grew from 16.1 million to 16.2 million last year. At the same time, the share of the workforce belonging to unions declined from 14.1 percent to 13.9 percent, reflecting population growth and an overall expansion in the workforce.

That is the least the percentage has fallen for the past five years. In 1994, there were 16.7 million union members, which reflected 15.5 percent of the workforce.

The AFL-CIO said the raw increase in membership reflects membership drives such as those that brought United Airlines workers into the International Association of Machinists last July.

"This new data confirms that today's unions are on the right track," said the labor federation's president, John Sweeney. "We're reaching out and growing, especially in the communities where working families most benefit from unionization."