How are Unions Faring in Today's Economy?

  • October 15, 2015
The month of September heralds Labour Day, making it an opportune time to review the place of trade unions in today’s increasingly complex economy. Trade unions remain an important factor in British Columbia. But their influence is waning, particularly in the private sector. This is starkly evident in the data on “union density” – the share of all workers who belong to a trade union. Falling union density is a well-established trend in British Columbia and other provinces, as well as in the United States. In 2006, 30.2 per cent of paid employees in BC were unionized. By 2009, the share had fallen to 29.1 per cent.

The month of September heralds Labour Day, making it an opportune time to review the place of trade unions in today’s increasingly complex economy. Trade unions remain an important factor in British Columbia. But their influence is waning, particularly in the private sector. This is starkly evident in the data on “union density” – the share of all workers who belong to a trade union. Falling union density is a well-established trend in British Columbia and other provinces, as well as in the United States. In 2006, 30.2 per cent of paid employees in BC were unionized. By 2009, the share had fallen to 29.1 per cent.

The above figures are based on a specific definition of union density: union members as a proportion of all paid employees. Because some workers covered by collective agreements are not actually union members, union coverage is slightly higher than union density. Union coverage in BC stood at 30.6 per cent in 2009, 1.5 percentage points higher than union density.