Unions were once a major part of American business. Some union chiefs, like Walter Reuther, who ran the United Automobile Workers, were household names. Strikes organized by unions were able to bring entire industries to their knees. However, the presence and the power of unions have faded over the past two decades.
Unions are back, at least as far as their presence in the public eye. Workers at Amazon and Starbucks are in tough fights with management over whether they can form unions at all.
Like many other measures of business, union membership varies from place to place. While in some states unions have lost most of their power, in others, unions still have clout. To identify the state with the highest union membership, 24/7 Wall St. used union membership data from Union Stats, a resource compiled using the Current Population Survey and Bureau of Labor Statistics. Union data is current as of Feb. 1, 2022. Ten-year changes in membership and employment are also from Union Stats, while average yearly wage is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey.
In addition to challenges by competition from abroad, organized labor has been confronted by robust and sophisticated management tactics to keep unions out of the workplace.
Nationally, the number of right-to-work states has swelled to 27, further eroding union influence in the workplace. In right-to-work states, employees hired by a union shop get to choose whether to join the union and pay union dues. Under the National Labor Relations Act, no one can force or otherwise compel a new or existing employee to join, stay or leave the union against their will.
The state with the highest union membership is Hawaii. Here are the details:
- Workers in a labor union: 22.4% (total: 120,906)
- Change in union membership (2011-2021): 0.9 ppt. (17th lowest)
- Average annual wage: $59,760 (14th highest)
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