Special Report

The States With the Strongest and Weakest Unions

5. Georgia
> Pct. of workers in unions:
> Union workers: 169,624 (23rd highest)
> 10-yr. change in union membership: -10.7% (17th largest decline)
> Unemployment rate: 7.2% (6th highest)

Of the more than 3.9 million workers employed in Georgia, just 4.3% were unionized. As of last year, the number of unionized workers in the state decreased by almost 39,000 from the year before, a larger drop than in all but three other states. This is in keeping with the decade-long trend of declining union membership. Since 2005, union membership has dropped by 10.7% across the state. While 7.1% of manufacturing workers were unionized in 2005, only 3.5% were in 2014.

4. Mississippi
> Pct. of workers in unions:
> Union workers: 38,007 (7th lowest)
> 10-yr. change in union membership: -50.7% (the largest decline)
> Unemployment rate: 7.8% (2nd highest)

Roughly 38,000 workers were union members last year, a 50.7% drop from the 77,157 unionized workers in 2005. Mississippian public workers were the least likely to participate in unions compared to other states, with a participation rate of just 2.7%, the lowest such percentage nationwide. In contrast, nearly 36% of public workers nationwide were members of unions. While the state might not have the lowest overall membership rate in the country, out of all the states in the country, none had a greater 10-year drop in union membership through 2014 than Mississippi. Despite the sharp long-term decline, the number of union workers in the state increased slightly, by about 0.5%, roughly in line with the nationwide change.

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3. Utah
> Pct. of workers in unions:
> Union workers: 45,754 (10th lowest)
> 10-yr. change in union membership: -9.4% (20th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 3.8% (4th lowest)

With only 3.7% of its workers active members of organized labor, Utah is tied with Mississippi for the third lowest proportion of unionized workers. Out of its total employed population of more than 1.2 million, only 45,754 were union members. Although more than 1 million — the vast majority of Utah’s labor force — works in the private sector, only 2.1% were union members. On the other hand, 11.5% of government workers were unionized. Consequently, the majority of Utah’s union members work in the public sector, and not the much larger private sector Less than 21,000 private sector workers were unionized compared to 24,788 of the state’s 215,113 public sector employees.

2. South Carolina
> Pct. of workers in unions:
> Union workers: 40,294 (8th lowest)
> 10-yr. change in union membership: +0.7% (17th largest growth)
> Unemployment rate: 6.4% (19th highest)

After only its neighbor to the north, South Carolina had the second lowest proportion of its workforce in a union in 2014. The number of unionized workers in the state dropped by more than 28,000 from 2013 through 2014, one of the larger such drops than all but a handful of other states. Despite the one-year decline, the percentage of unionized workers in the state actually grew by about three-quarters of a percent from 2005. Unlike most of the states with the weakest union membership, South Carolina’s unemployment rate of 6.4% was slightly higher than the national rate of 6.2%.

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1. North Carolina
> Pct. of workers in unions:
> Union workers: 76,293 (19th lowest)
> 10-yr. change in union membership: -28.7% (4th largest decline)
> Unemployment rate: 6.1% (25th highest)

At 1.9%, North Carolina had a lower percentage of unionized workers than any other state in the country. Only 76,293 of the state’s 3.6 million workers were union members in 2014. North Carolina also experienced one of the sharpest drops in union representation in the country in the last 10 years. Since 2005, union membership declined by more than 30,600 members. This drop of nearly 29% occurred even as the state’s workforce grew by more than 300,000 over the same time period. In construction, an industry that typically has strong union representation, North Carolina stood out even more. While at least 10% of construction workers in most states were unionized, Unionstats alarmingly reported that there were no unionized construction workers in the state.

Click here to see the states with the strongest unions

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