Pennsylvania unions bucked a national trend of stagnant growth this year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
University of Pittsburgh Professor James Craft, with the Katz Graduate School of Business, credited the state's 50,000 new members to recent unionization in health care, food service and retail markets, as well as a local push to organize university and college faculty.
More than 800,000 Pennsylvanians belong to a union, according to 2015 labor data.
The report relied on data collected by the Census Bureau’s population survey, which provides basic information on the labor force. Nationally, the number of workers represented by a union did not change from 2014, but in Pennsylvania, the percentage of workers in the state represented by a labor union grew from 13.7 to 14.4 percent.
The country is experiencing a transformation in the way work is done, Craft said. The way unions follow that trend will determine union viability in the country, he said.
“There’s been increased emphasis by unions on organizing employees, particularly in emerging and growing industries which are typically low-pay industries,” he said.
Craft said, historically, workers unionized to join the middle class and have a family-sustaining job. Now workers often unionize for stability in the job itself, he said.
“Maybe some potential increases in pay, which they are not getting through increases in minimum wage," he said.