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Number of Foreign-Born Workers in Labor Unions Climbs 24 Percent

Press Release
Thursday, May 20, 2004

Number of Foreign-Born Workers in Labor Unions Climbs 24 Percent

The overall number of immigrant workers in labor unions has grown by 24 percent since 1996. One out of every ten immigrant wage and salary workers in the United States was a labor union member in 2003.

"The demographic shift, especially in the low-wage sector of the labor market, is so profound that the American labor movement has inevitably become a leader in the pro-immigrant legalization movement in the country," said MPI Senior Policy Analyst Muzaffar Chishti.

Elizabeth Grieco, senior demographer at the Migration Policy Institute, has compiled facts on union membership and representation from survey data. Some key findings include:

  • Between 1996 and 2003, immigrant wage and salary workers in the U.S. workforce increased by 48 percent.
  • During the same period, the percentage of both foreign-born workers and natives who were union members declined by 2 percent.
  • Native workers are more likely to be union members than foreign-born workers, with 13 percent of native workers and 10 percent of foreign-born workers being union members.
  • The number of immigrants in labor unions increased by 24 percent from 1996 to 2003, while the number of native workers in unions declined by 6 percent. The percentage of people in unions who were immigrants rose from 9 percent in 1996 to 11 percent in 2003.

The attached PDF provides further details and findings, as well as detailed charts and tables. Additional fact sheets on the foreign born in the U.S. workforce can be accessed here.