Special Report

The States With the Strongest and Weakest Unions

5. New Jersey
> Pct. of workers in unions:
> Union workers: 637,159 (5th highest)
> 10-yr. change in union membership: -19.5% (9th largest decline)
> Unemployment rate: 6.6% (14th highest)

There were 154,113 fewer union members in New Jersey last year than there were in 2005, the third largest drop in the country. This decline of roughly 20% of the total organized labor force occurred in both the private and public sectors, but the biggest shift was in non-government positions. The private sector, which added roughly 75,000 jobs overall, had roughly 90,000 fewer union workers last year compared to 2005. Still, New Jersey continues to have strong representation by organized labor. More than 62% of all government workers in the state were union members, the third highest such percentage nationwide.

4. Washington
> Pct. of workers in unions:
> Union workers: 490,112 (9th highest)
> 10-yr. change in union membership: -6.3% (25th largest decline)
> Unemployment rate: 6.2% (22nd highest)

Washington has among the strongest union participation rates in the United States, but like in most parts of the country, membership is declining. There were roughly 33,200 fewer employed union members last year than there were a decade prior. Still, Washington’s unions have a strong presence in the state, and in the manufacturing sector In particular. Nearly 20% of all manufacturing workers were union members, roughly double national union membership rate in the manufacturing industry across the country.

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3. Hawaii
> Pct. of workers in unions:
> Union workers: 124,241 (23rd lowest)
> 10-yr. change in union membership: -11.6% (16th largest decline)
> Unemployment rate: 4.4% (9th lowest)

Hawaii has one of the larger shares of construction workers in the country, with 7% of the labor force employed in the industry, the 11th most in the country. Construction workers in the state are also much more likely than average construction worker nationwide to be part of a union. While nationally less than 15% of construction workers were union members, nearly 39% of Hawaii’s construction workers were unionized, higher than in any state. Union membership in Hawaii was also above average in manufacturing employment. More than 21% of workers in the sector were unionized, compared to just 9.7% of manufacturing workers nationwide.

2. Alaska
> Pct. of workers in unions:
> Union workers: 69,949 (17th lowest)
> 10-yr. change in union membership: +11.7% (8th largest increase)
> Unemployment rate: 6.8% (11th highest)

Alaska had the highest share of government employees than any other state, at 23.5% of workers, nearly 10 percentage points more than the national share. Those government employees were also among the most likely in the country to be union members. While nationally, roughly 35% of public sector employees were unionized, more than 54% of government workers in Alaska were. Unlike in many of the states with strong representation of organized labor, both the union membership rate and the total membership have increased in Alaska. Over the last 10 years, the state added more than 7,300 union workers — this 11.7% increase was the eighth biggest in the country over that period.

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1. New York
> Pct. of workers in unions:
> Union workers: 1,980,075 (2nd highest)
> 10-yr. change in union membership: -5.2% (28th largest decline)
> Unemployment rate: 6.3% (21st highest)

Even after a reduction of nearly 110,000 union workers over the past 10 years, New York remains the most unionized state in the country. Close to one out of every four workers in the state were union members, more than double the national rate. The state had the highest rate of public sector unionization, with just under three-quarters of government workers represented by unions. Even with such a high rate, government workers accounted for less than half of all organized labor in the state. Nearly 15% of the state’s 6.7 million private sector employees were union members, more than any state in the country.

Click here to see the states with the weakest unions

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