Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said Wednesday that as union membership declines in the US, so does the number of people able to stay in the middle class.
Michael Bonfigli / The Christian Science Monitor
As the portion of the population that belongs to a union has declined, “there has been an erosion of people that have been able to stay in the middle class. The way I see, it is that unions have helped to keep people in the middle class," Secretary Solis said. She spoke at a Monitor-hosted breakfast for reporters.
Earlier this year the Labor Department reported that union membership continued to slide last year. In 2010, the percentage of wage and salary workers who were members of a union was 11.9 percent, down from 12.3 percent a year earlier.
The number of workers belonging to a union declined by 612,000 to 14.7 million. For purposes of comparison, in 1983, the first year for which comparable data is available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent and there were 17.7 million union workers.