The Defense Department is among those with the most untapped potential union members.

The Defense Department is among those with the most untapped potential union members. Chelsea Bland / AFGE file photo

Here’s Where Federal Employee Unions Can Look to Expand Their Ranks

According to new data from the Office of Personnel Management, nearly 300,000 federal employees are eligible to form unions but haven’t.

New data from the Office of Personnel Management show there are nearly 300,000 federal workers who are eligible to form a labor union but have not yet done so.

One recommendation issued by the Biden administration’s White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment in February was for OPM to improve its data collection and transparency on union membership rates across the federal government. The group also called on agencies to pursue a more collaborative relationship with federal employee unions and urged OPM to better facilitate communications between unions and employees.

Last week, OPM issued its quarterly update of the FedScope database of federal workforce information, including new capabilities to search based on employees’ union representation, including the ability to see which agencies have workforces that are eligible to organize but have yet to do so.

As of March 2022, more than one-third of the nearly 300,000 federal workers who could form new unions if they wanted are employed by the Defense Department or military service branch civilian departments. The largest chunks of non-union employees there include the Navy’s Sea Systems Command with 12,279, the Army Corps of Engineers with 12,493 and the Air Force’s Force Materiel Command with 12,782. The Defense Department itself has an additional 10,141 employees eligible for unionization.

Other agencies with large cadres of federal employees who could unionize are the National Institutes of Health, the Veterans Health Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Census Bureau. Here are the top 10 Cabinet-level agencies in terms of eligible but non-unionized workforces:

1. Navy Department, 51,650

2. Army Department, 43,831

3. Agriculture Department, 30,003

4. Interior Department, 27,438

5. Air Force Department, 21,514

6. Veterans Affairs Department, 20,780

7. Health and Human Services Department, 19,440

8. Commerce Department, 16,665

9. Homeland Security Department, 14,099

10. Defense Department, 10,141

National Federation of Federal Employees National President Randy Erwin applauded OPM for including the new figures in its latest set of workforce data, which he said will help his union and other labor organizations identify where to focus their efforts to increase union density within the federal government.

“This upgraded resource will be an excellent tool for our union to locate non-union employees across the federal government who are rightfully entitled to representation and a voice in their workplace,” he said. “NFFE specifically requested assistance in identifying the hundreds of thousands of unrepresented government workers, and today OPM delivered on its commitment to promote employee organizing and collective bargaining by rolling out the enhanced database.”