February 22, 2017

At the very top of the list is Hawaii where 23.1% of its workers belonged to unions.  Union membership in Hawaii s particularly strong among hospitality workers.  It was closely followed by New York with 22.3%.  The main story in N.Y. is the public sector where 71 percent of government workers belong to unions.,  Then comes Alaska at 18.5% where union membership is especially strong in infrastructure jobs like road building.   Next up is California at 14.7%.

At the opposite end of the spectrum the states with the lowest percentage of union members are South Carolina and North Carolina which are tied at 2.7%.  Then comes Georgia at 4.5% followed by Florida at 5.6%.  All four of these states are so-called right-to-work states where workers are not required to join unions.  There are currently 28 such states states in the country.  And all four of those states are in the south.  Unions have never really been a thing in the South. Even in the ’60’s, the share of union workers in the South was one-half of what it was in the Northeast, Midwest, and West. This is partly cultural. People in the South have long been less supportive of unions than other parts of the country.

The biggest declines in union membership have occurred at states which have a large manufacturing presence — like Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.  As a result of automation and outsourcing of jobs overseas, union membership in those states has fallen between 4-6% since 2000.  The decline is most pronounced in Wisconsin which became a right-to-work state in 2015.  Union membership in that state has slipped 10% since 2000.

Stephen Slifer


Charleston, SC