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Union membership grows by 12.4 percent in U.S.

| Thursday, Jan. 29, 2009

Union membership jumped to 12.4 percent of the nation's work force last year, amid widespread job losses and credit woes in a troubled economy.

The ranks of organized labor rose by 428,000 workers in 2008, the biggest annual gain since the government began compiling such data in 1983, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Wednesday.

It's also the second year in a row that unions have added to their ranks. Membership rose by 311,000 members in 2007, to account for 12.1 percent of workers.

Overall, union membership remains well below the peak of 35 percent during labor's heyday of the 1950s. Membership was about 20 percent in 1983, the first year the bureau began compiling the numbers.

Unions have moved aggressively to bolster organizing efforts in recent years, a move that apparently offset the loss of 2.6 million jobs from payrolls in 2008. The Teamsters Union, one of the nation's largest unions, had its most successful organizing year in decades, with more than 43,000 workers joining.

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