Union jobs in Georgia decline

November 10, 2015 Atlanta: About 200 people gather in front of Atlanta City Hall last November to demand a $15 minimum wage. Ben Gray / bgray@ajc.com

November 10, 2015 Atlanta: About 200 people gather in front of Atlanta City Hall last November to demand a $15 minimum wage. Ben Gray / bgray@ajc.com

Georgia continues to lose union jobs, according to recent federal data, even though jobs overall are growing.

Georgia’s workforce grew from 3,926,000 to 4,016,000 last year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. But public and private sector union jobs declined from 170,000 to 162,000.

Only 4 percent of all Georgia jobs were unionized last year. In 2014, 4.3 percent of the workforce wore a union label.

“We’re growing industries, but they’re not union-based industries,” Michael Wald, a former BLS economist who does independent economic analysis, said Friday. “Business services, health care, retail are growing. But they’re (mostly) non-unionized.”

Organized labor comprised 6.5 percent of Georgia’s workforce in 2000; 237,000 men and women belonged.

Today, only Utah (3.9 percent), North Carolina (3 percent) and South Carolina (2.1) have lower rates of unionization, according to the BLS.

“Unions in Georgia are trying to reach out to community groups and make alliances with immigrants and lower-paid populations like fast-food, nursing care and home care workers,” Wald said. “But they’re not making huge inroads.”

Florida is something of a Southern labor anomaly, adding 91,000 union jobs last year while the labor force overall lost 48,000 jobs. Union jobs make up 6.8 percent of all Sunshine State jobs, up from 5.7 percent in 2014.

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