Special Report

The States With the Strongest and Weakest Unions

7. Arizona
> Pct. of workers in unions:
> Union workers: 137,173 (25th lowest)
> 10-yr. change in union membership: -5.2% (21st lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 5.5% (11th highest)

In Arizona, labor union participation declined by a net 5.2% across the public and private sectors between 2005 and 2015. During that 10 year period, however, union membership fluctuated from historic highs to lows. In 2007 and 2008, participation in organized labor averaged 8.8% of the workforce, more than in any other year in state history. By 2013, only 5.0% of wage and salaried workers in the state were union members, the smallest share in state history. Today, the 137,173 union members in Arizona represent 5.2% of the total workforce. Laws in Arizona make it especially difficult for workers to organize.

6. Arkansas
> Pct. of workers in unions:
> Union workers: 58,542 (11th lowest)
> 10-yr. change in union membership: 7.5% (16th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 4.2% (18th lowest)

Across the United States, labor union participation fell by 5.7% over the past decade. Over the same time period, participation in organized labor in Arkansas rose by 7.5%. Despite increasing numbers, a much smaller share of Arkansas’ workforce is unionized than is typical across the country. Only 5.1% of wage earners in Arkansas are part of a labor union, less than half the national participation rate of 11.1%. Arkansas is a right-to-work law state, meaning it is illegal for employment status at a particular company or agency to hinge on union membership.

5. Texas
> Pct. of workers in unions:
> Union workers: 502,767 (9th highest)
> 10-yr. change in union membership: -0.7% (23rd highest)
> Unemployment rate: 4.4% (20th lowest)

Texas is home to more than half a million union members, more than the vast majority of other states. However, because Texas is one of the most populous states, union workers only comprise 4.5% of the workforce, a smaller share than in only a handful of other states. As is the case across the country, labor union membership is waning in Texas’ private sector. Among private companies, union membership dropped from 247,037 in 2005 to 240,757 as of 2015. Over the same time period, labor union participation among public sector employees went up by nearly 3,000 workers. Combined, this amounted to a 0.7% net loss of union workers in the state from 2005 to 2015.

4. Georgia
> Pct. of workers in unions:
> Union workers: 161,720 (24th highest)
> 10-yr. change in union membership: -14.9% (12th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 5.4% (16th highest)

Overall, unions have taken a big hit in Georgia over the past 10 years. Across both public and private sector industries, the number of unionized workers in the Peach State fell by 14.9% from 2005 to 2015, one of the most precipitous drops in the country. Today, only 4.0% of Georgia’s workforce is in a union, a considerably smaller share than the corresponding 11.1% share of the national workforce. Recently, however, a bright spot for unions has emerged in the state. In 2008, legislators in Georgia created tax incentives to boost the film industry. The laws have been successful and many of the new jobs created by the burgeoning television and film industry are protected by unions.

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