This week North Carolinians celebrate Labor Day with backyard barbecues, retail sales and one more beach trip before the end of summer. Policy watch, however, is taking the opportunity to reflect on the history of the labor movement and the by-the-numbers realities of today’s labor force. (Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics)
125 – The number of years the United States has been celebrating Labor Day as a national holiday. Congress passed an act recognizing Labor Day in 1894, though municipal recognitions go back to 1885. The first state to officially recognize Labor Day was Oregon in 1887.
10,000 – 20,000 – The estimated number who marched in the first Labor Day parade, held in New York City in 1882. Organized by the Central Labor Union, celebrants took unpaid time off of work to march from City Hall to Union Square.
The New York Tribune reported: “The windows and roofs and even the lamp posts and awning frames were occupied by persons anxious to get a good view of the first parade in New York of workingmen of all trades united in one organization.” The celebration was part of a large and growing movement in favor of labor unions, the right of workers to strike, fair wages and more effective workplace safety regulations.
35% – The highest rate of unionization for the U.S. workforce – it occurred in 1954.
21 million – The peak total number of U.S. workers who were union members, measured in 1979.
10.5% – The percentage of U.S. wage and salary workers who were members of unions in 2018. That’s down slightly – about 0.2 percent – from 2017.
2.7% – The union membership rate in North Carolina in 2018. Last year, Hawaii and New York had the highest union membership rates (23.1 percent and 22.3 percent, respectively). North Carolina and South Carolina (also 2.7 percent) had the lowest.
11.1% – The union membership rate for men in the U.S.
9.9% – The union membership rate for women in the U.S.
12.5% – The union membership rate for Black workers in the U.S.
10.4% – The union membership rate for white workers in the U.S
8.4% – The union membership rate for Asian workers in the U.S.
9.1% – The union membership rate for Hispanic workers in the U.S
64% – The rate of approval of labor unions among Americans, as measured by Gallup. That’s up 16 points since 2008, with members of both major political parties showing similar increases. Since 1970, there have been only two years with higher approval rates – 1999 (66 percent) and 2003 (65 percent).
$27.98 – The average hourly earnings of employees on private nonfarm payrolls in the U.S.
$7.25 – The minimum wage in North Carolina (also the federal minimum wage). The federal minimum wage has not changed since 2009.
29 – The number of states (including Washington D.C.) that maintain state minimum wages higher than the federal minimum wage.