Changing Face of New Jersey's Labor Movement: Highly Educated, Gender Integrated and Racially Diverse

Changing Face of New Jersey's Labor Movement: Highly Educated, Gender Integrated and Racially Diverse

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – The face of the New Jersey labor movement has changed significantly in the last 20 years, according to The State of the New Jersey Labor by Tracy F.H. Chang, director of the Labor Program, and Jeffrey H. Keefe, associate professor in the Department of Labor Studies and Employment Relations, at Rutgers’ School of Management and Labor Relations.

“The prototypical union member is no longer the white, blue-collar male with a high school education,” Chang observed. “Instead, the New Jersey labor movement is gender integrated and increasingly racially and ethnically diverse, and more highly educated.”

The key findings of the study include:

  • Between 1990 and 2009, the percentage of New Jersey women in the labor movement grew from 43 percent to 49 percent; nationally, the percentage of women in unions increased from 41 percent to 44 percent.

  • Whites are still the majority of union members in New Jersey and the country, but minority groups are gaining. African-Americans, Hispanics and Latinos, and Asian and Pacific Islander Americans accounted for 35 percent of union membership in 2009, up from 29 percent in 1990.

  • The average New Jersey union member was 44 years old in 2009, three years older than in 1990. Workers 35 and younger comprised 30 percent of the work force last year, but only 22 percent of union membership.

  • In New Jersey in 2009, 41 percent of union members held a college degree, compared to 30 percent in 1990.

  • New Jersey’s labor unions have been profoundly transformed with the decline of manufacturing employment. Since the end of World War II, manufacturing’s share of New Jersey’s employment declined from 55 percent of the state’s workforce to 7 percent in 2009.

  • New Jersey’s unionized workers enjoy a wage premium, but the premium has declined in the last 20 years. The state’s estimated union wage premium was 9 percent in 2009 compared to a 14 percent wage premium union members enjoyed in 1990.

Chang and Keefe say this is the first in a series of reports that will examine the labor movement in New Jersey.  

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