The same government report that shows a continuing decline in union membership levels demonstrates the importance of unions, according to U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L.Solis.

The annual report on union members released last week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics found the unionization rate of employed wage and salary workers at 11.9 percent – down from 12.3 percent in 2009. Among private sector employees, the rate dropped to 6.9 percent from 7.2 percent in 2009.

Solis noted the discrepancy among the average weekly salaries of union members ($917) versus non-union members ($717). For Latino workers, that gap was even wider; $771 compared with $512 – a difference of 33.6 percent.

When coupled with existing data showing that union members have access to better health care, retirement and leave benefits, today’s numbers make it clear that union jobs are not only good jobs, they are central to restoring our middle class,” she said.

"As workers across the country continue to face lower wages and difficulty finding work due to the recent recession, these numbers demonstrate the pressing need to provide workers with a voice in the workplace and protect their right to organize and bargain collectively."