Special Report

The States With the Strongest and Weakest Unions

States With the Weakest Unions

10. North Dakota
> Pct. of workers in unions:
> Union workers: 17,705 (3rd lowest)
> 10-yr. change in union membership: -15.7% (12th largest decline)
> Unemployment rate: 2.8% (the lowest)

Just 5% of North Dakota’s workers were union members last year, the 10th lowest union participation rate in the country. Participation has been declining over the years. Over the last 10 years , the state’s workforce lost a net of 3,300 union workers, a decline of 15.7% decrease — the 12th largest percentage drop in the country. While the relationship between unemployment and unionization is complicated, states that had higher unemployment also tended to have larger union representation. On the other end of the spectrum, North Dakota had the lowest annual unemployment rate in the country last year, at just 2.8% of the labor force.

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9. South Dakota
> Pct. of workers in unions:
> Union workers: 17,680 (2nd lowest)
> 10-yr. change in union membership: -13.9% (13th largest decline)
> Unemployment rate: 3.4% (3rd )

Union membership in South Dakota declined by roughly 14% in the 10 years through 2014. As is the case nationwide, the public sector had a higher share of unionized workers than the private sector. However, far lower percentages of employees in the state’s private and public sectors were represented by unions — 16% of public employees and 2.5% of private sector workers were in unions. South Dakota’s private sector employed nearly five times as many workers as the public sector, the public sector had nearly 3,000 more unionized workers.

8. Virginia
> Pct. of workers in unions:
> Union workers: 178,695 (22nd highest)
> 10-yr. change in union membership: +8.6% (10th largest increase)
> Unemployment rate: 5.2% (17th lowest)

Barely 5% of Virginia’s active workers were union members, the eighth smallest unionization rate in the country. Relatively few of both government employees and private sector employees were unionized. Just 12.5% of the state’s public sector and 2.7% of its private sector were union members, compared to the respective national shares of 35.7% and 6.6%. Although the state’s union participation rate has remained low, it has increased in recent years. From 2005 through 2014, Virginia had a net increase of more than 14,000 union workers, or 8.6%. Over the same period, national union membership declined by 7.1%.

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7. Texas
> Pct. of workers in unions:
> Union workers: 543,434 (8th highest)
> 10-yr. change in union membership: +7.4% (12th largest growth)
> Unemployment rate: 5.1% (16th lowest)

As the second largest state in the country population wise, Texas was home to more than half a million unionized workers in 2014. However, this figure only comprised 4.8% of the state’s total workforce, the seventh lowest proportion of unionized workers in the country. While it is less common for a worker to be a union member in Texas than it is in most other states, over the last 10 years, union membership has been on the rise in the state. With 37,261 more unionized workers in 2014 than in 2005, the number of union workers has grown by nearly 7.4%, one of the larger growth rates compared to other states.

6. Arkansas
> Pct. of workers in unions:
> Union workers: 52,340 (11th lowest)
> 10-yr. change in union membership: -3.9% (20th largest decline)
> Unemployment rate: -3.9% (20th largest decline)

In 2014, Arkansas had just over 52,000 unionized workers, up nearly 15,000 from 2013, or an increase of nearly 39% — the highest such percentage increase nationwide. Even so, from 2005 through 2014, union membership in Arkansas decreased by nearly 4%. According to the Arkansas American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, which helps organize nearly 200 local unions, union workers are far more likely to earn higher wages than workers who do not participate. In addition, according to the group, nearly 80% of union workers received job-provided health insurance, versus around half of nonunion workers.

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