Gov. Report: Union Membership Rises In Colorado, Nation

    Statistics released from the U.S. Department of Labor last Friday show that union membership grew nationally by 311,000 in 2007, the biggest annual gain in nearly 25 years, and part of that number came from Colorado.

    The number of union members in Colorado grew by 26,000, the state’s largest annual increase in at least nine years.Colorado’s union numbers have been in a steady decline since 1999, when the reported union membership by the federal labor department’s Bureau of Labor and Statistics was 9.4 percent. In 2007, the number was 8.7 percent, and 7.7 percent in 2006.

    The only other time Colorado’s membership rate has grown in the last nine years was in 2004, where union members grew by 16,000, according to available government data.

    Nationally, the percentage of members grew from 12 percent in 2006 to 12.1 percent in 2007, out of a work force totaling 129 million. In 1983, when the federal government started keeping track of union growth numbers, 20 percent of workers held union cards.

    The government report attributes the increase in membership rates to gains in western states, while the Midwest continues to experience significant declines. California, which contains the largest population of union workers, gained more than 200,000 members last year, while Nevada gained 15,000. Illinois lost the greatest number of unionized employees, with a decrease of approximately 89,000 members.

    Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature. Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state. Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters. She can be reached at