Special Report

The States With the Strongest and Weakest Unions

3. Alaska
> Pct. of workers in unions:
19.6%
> Union workers: 59,653 (12th lowest)
> 10-yr. change in union membership: -4.7% (22nd lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.6% (the highest)

Nearly one in every five workers in Alaska are card-carrying union members, the largest share of any state in the country after only Hawaii and New York. Many union jobs in Alaska are state jobs tied to the building of infrastructure. While only 11.2% of Alaska’s private sector workers are in a union, as many as 41.8% of public sector workers in the state are unionized. This proportion is particularly meaningful, as 27.4% of the state’s workforce is in the public sector, by far the largest share in the country. Roughly in line with the national trend, the state’s union membership declined by 4.7% over the past decade.

2. Hawaii
> Pct. of workers in unions:
20.3%
> Union workers: 118,572 (22nd lowest)
> 10-yr. change in union membership: -15.7% (11th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 3.1% (6th lowest)

Compared to a decade prior, Hawaii’s union membership is down by 15.7%, which is one of the largest membership declines in the country. Despite the decline, the state is still the second most unionized in the country. One in five state workers are members of an organized labor group. Half of all public sector workers in the state are union members, which is actually only the 11th highest share of all states. However, 12% of the state’s private sector workers are union members, the second highest share of private sector union members of all states. Union membership is particularly robust in Hawaii’s ample hospitality industry.

1. New York
> Pct. of workers in unions:
24.7%
> Union workers: 2,036,802 (2nd highest)
> 10-yr. change in union membership: -2.5% (25th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 4.8% (22nd highest)

New York is home to more than 2 million union members, comprising nearly 25% of the state’s workforce. The vast majority of public sector workers — nearly 69% — are union members, the highest public sector union participation rate of any state in the county. As is universally the case, New York’s private sector is much larger than the public sector. As a result, even though only 15.9% of private sector workers in the state belong to an organized labor group, they comprise more than half of the state’s unionized workforce. In the most recent state budget, labor unions won big over some business interests by including a measure to increase minimum wage considerably over the coming years.