Special Report

The States With the Strongest and Weakest Unions

Strongest Unions

10. Oregon
> Pct. of workers in unions:
14.8%
> Union workers: 234,577 (16th highest)
> 10-yr. change in union membership: 10.2% (13th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 4.8% (22nd highest)

Of Oregon’s 1.6 million workers, 14.8% are union members. Union membership declined in the majority of the most heavily-unionized states over the past decade, but this was not the case in Oregon, where membership increased by 10.2%. The outcome of a current ballot initiative may affect this figure in the near future. A Portland attorney has proposed a right-to-work initiative in the state, demanding that nonunion workers no longer be required to pay union fees. The initiative is slated to be voted on this November.

9. Michigan
> Pct. of workers in unions:
15.2%
> Union workers: 621,952 (5th highest)
> 10-yr. change in union membership: -29.3% (2nd lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 4.8% (22nd highest)

Alongside the manufacturing sector decline over the past several decades in Michigan, union membership took a hit as well, down nearly 30% over the 10 years. Still, Michigan remains one of the nation’s strongholds for both manufacturing jobs and manufacturing unions. Of the state’s 815,800 private sector manufacturing workers, 18% are union members, the third highest proportion of any state. Michigan remains one of the largest auto manufacturing states in the country, and a large share of these workers are likely part of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union. The UAW has more than 400,000 members across the country.

8. Illinois
> Pct. of workers in unions:
15.2%
> Union workers: 846,984 (3rd highest)
> 10-yr. change in union membership: -8.6% (17th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.4% (4th highest)

Illinois is home to one of the largest unionized workforces in the country, trailing only California and New York. Union workers comprise 15.2% of the state’s labor force. Though the state’s share of unionized workers is one of the highest in the country, it is a far cry from 1993, when 21.0% of the workforce was unionized, the largest share in Illinois’ history. Compared to 2005, there are roughly 80,000 fewer unionized workers in Illinois today. Despite the drop in the overall union membership, the number of unionized public sector employees actually increased from 370,464 in 2005 to 383,251 today. All of the decline was in the private sector.