Despite COVID-19 layoffs, construction union membership held steady in 2020

The number of those represented by unions, including those under project labor agreements, was about 1.1 million in 2019 (13.6% of total workers) but decreased to just over 1 million in 2020. Nonunion median weekly wages in 2019 were $868, almost 29% less than than the average union and union-affiliated wage but increased to $920 in 2020, almost 28% of their union and union-affiliated counterparts. Overall, there were fewer total wage and salary union members nationwide in 2020 when compared to 2019 — a decline of 2.2% to 14.3 million — but because of disproportionately larger coronavirus-related layoffs among nonunion workers, the percentage of workers in unions increased slightly by 0.5% to 10.8%. Bolstering the BLS’s findings on nonunion wages versus those with union membership or affiliation, at least in the Chicago metro area, was a January report from the Illinois Economic Policy Institute and the Project for Middle Class Renewal at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Collective bargaining agreements, according to the group, were instrumental in securing a typical union journeyworker wages commensurate with those of urban Illinois workers with bachelor’s degrees, about $77,300.

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