Long Island Union Labor Rises Amid National, City Declines, New Report Says

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Long Island is seeing an unexpected rise in union labor by thousands, according to a new report from Hofstra University’s Center for the Study of Labor and Democracy.

The report found that while union membership in New York City and the nation as a whole decreased since the Covid-19 pandemic, Long Island’s union membership has been steadily increasing. Gregory DeFreitas, Hofstra’s Augustus Weller Professor of Economics and director of the CLD, authored the study.

“At a time when inflation and pandemic job pressures have pushed public approval of unions to the highest levels in decades, workers across the country – and even in traditional labor-friendly towns like New York – are still struggling uphill to win union rights and representation,” DeFreitas said. “That’s indicative of successful corporate union-busting strategies and of conservative politicians’ refusal to allow labor law reforms to level the playing field.”

The research was based on Census Bureau household surveys tracking union membership in 2019, 2020, and 2021. A full report on the findings will be released on Labor Day at hofstra.edu/cld.

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Union Labor Boost

As of 2021, 26.8% of employed Long Island residents – 336,246 workers – are part of a union, while 21.2% of city workers are union members. Both the Island and city union labor rates increased by one percentage point, but a look into the numbers actually shows a decrease in city union workers because of a sharp decline in employment during the pandemic that the Island did not suffer from as badly.

Suburban areas typically have slightly higher union membership rates than their urban counterparts. In 2021, the national average was 10.25% union labor for cities and 11.1% in metro suburbs.

In the data analyzed, New York City saw declines in union membership in all but 3 out of 11 industry sectors, while Long Island saw increases in union labor in 7 of them. Construction and education accounted for the most growth.

The report comes at a time when the nation’s overall union membership has dropped by half a million people in recent years, the CLD notes. Yet in the public sector, the New York metropolitan area remains the most popular region for union representation in the country, with about two thirds of public workers in unions. The New York metro area has recently seen big union labor wins for workers of large corporations, such as Apple, Amazon, and Starbucks.

According to the report, unionized workers in the New York City/Long Island metro area receive about 12-13% more earnings than nonunionized employees, even after controlling for demographics and other relevant factors.

DeFreitas’ report also shows that new millennial and immigrant union workers were a significant part of the growth in union membership on Long Island over the past three years. Millennials were found to be twice as likely to be a union member than workers in other generations, and immigrant union membership accounted for 43.7% of Long Island’s recent union growth.