The States with the Strongest and Weakest Unions

Print Email

Ten States with the Weakest Unions

10. Idaho
> Pct. Workers in Unions: 5.1%
> Union Workers: 30,560 (5th fewest)
> Change in Union Membership, (2001 – 2011): -32% (6th largest decline)
> Change in Union Membership, (2010 – 2011): -28.2% (the largest decline)
> Total Employed (2011): 594,380 (11th fewest)

In the past 10 years, union membership declined in Idaho more than any almost any other state. Between 2001 and 2010, the percentage of workers in unions fell by 28.2% overall. In 2011, only 14.9% of government workers were union members. In the public labor force, only 3.2% were union members. Last year, the state enacted a new school reform policy that dramatically reduced collective bargaining rights for teachers’ associations.

Read: Trouble For Online News Sites

9. South Dakota
> Pct. Workers in Unions: 5.1%
> Union Workers: 18,302 (2nd fewest)
> Change in Union Membership, (2001 – 2011): -12.1% (28th largest decline)
> Change in Union Membership, (2010 – 2011): -8.9% (7th largest decline)
> Total Employed (2011): 359,216 (5th fewest)

South Dakota is the fifth-least populous state in the country and has the second-fewest union members, above only Wyoming. Employment on the whole, however, appears better than most states. In December, South Dakota’s unemployment rate was 4.2% — the third-lowest rate in the country, which was down from 4.7% the year before. Between 2010 and 2011, the state added roughly 2,500 jobs. Meanwhile, union membership declined by 1,700, or 8.9%, one of the biggest proportional declines in the country.

8. Mississippi
> Pct. Workers in Unions: 5%
> Union Workers: 52,724 (11th fewest)
> Change in Union Membership, (2001 – 2011): -9.1% (34th largest decrease)
> Change in Union Membership, (2010 – 2011): +11.1% (the largest increase)
> Total Employed (2011): 1,081,731 (17th fewest)

Mississippi’s economy has had better days. The state has the highest poverty rate, the lowest median income, and the 10th highest unemployment rate in the U.S. However, the economy has begun to improve in the state, which has added 44,000 jobs since 2010. The state has extremely low union membership, but it still added nearly 7,500 union workers between 2010 and 2011, an increase of 11.1%. The biggest cause for this increase was an incredible 40.5% jump in public union membership in the state.

7. Tennessee
> Pct. Workers in Unions: 4.6%
> Union Workers: 115,461 (25th fewest)
> Change in Union Membership, (2001 – 2011): -41% (4th largest decline)
> Change in Union Membership, (2010 – 2011): -2.1% (24th largest decline)
> Total Employed (2011): 2,504,352 (19th most)

Between 2001 and 2011, the number of workers in Tennessee’s private labor force increased by 61,875. Yet, the number of workers belonging to private unions fell during the decade by more than 70,000, from 122,000 to 51,238. This 58.3% decline was the biggest in the country. However, last year, the decade-long trend reversed somewhat and the number of union members increased by 5,000 people. The state is still tied for the fourth-smallest private membership in the country.

6. Virginia
> Pct. Workers in Unions: 4.6%
> Union Workers: 163,146 (21st most)
> Change in Union Membership, (2001 – 2011): -13.2% (25th largest decline)
> Change in Union Membership, (2010 – 2011): +0%
> Total Employed (2011): 3,548,810 (12th most)

Virginia has a particularly low rate of union membership among its workforce, and this rate shows no signs of increasing any time soon. Last year, union membership remained the same. But in the preceding decade, membership decreased 13.2%. Overall employment from 2000 to 2011 actually increased by 9.2% in the state. The low union membership rate in the state is primarily because only 2.1% of private sector workers were union members in 2011. In the public sector, union membership is 14.1%.