Special Report

The States With the Strongest and Weakest Unions

3. Utah
> Pct. of workers in unions:
3.9%
> Union workers: 50,409 (9th lowest)
> 10-yr. change in union membership: -0.2% (21st highest)
> Unemployment rate: 3.4% (8th lowest)

Utah’s changing union membership composition is fairly unique. Bucking the national trend, private sector union membership in the state increased over the last 10 years, from 23,286 workers in 2005 to 24,769 workers today. Meanwhile, public sector union membership dropped from 27,225 to 25,639 over the same time period. In 1955, Utah passed right-to-work laws, joining a roster of 15 other states at the time. Today, top leaders in the state government believe right-to-work laws help make Utah more business friendly. Partially as the result of anti-union laws, only 3.9% of Utah’s workforce is in a labor union, one of the smallest shares in the country.

2. North Carolina
> Pct. of workers in unions:
3.0%
> Union workers: 123,126 (23rd lowest)
> 10-yr. change in union membership: 15.1% (7th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 5.5% (11th highest)

Nationwide, union membership declined by 5.7% over the past decade. In North Carolina, however, the size of the unionized labor force increased by 15.1% over that period, one of the larger increases in the country. Still, only one other state has less union representation than North Carolina. Just 3% of the state’s 4 million workers are union members compared to a national share of 11.1%. Less than 2% of North Carolina’s private sector workforce is unionized, while 6.7% of the country’s non-government workers are. Like many of the states with the weakest unions, North Carolina was one of the first states to enact a right to work law, which it did by statute in 1947.

1. South Carolina
> Pct. of workers in unions:
2.1%
> Union workers: 40,425 (6th lowest)
> 10-yr. change in union membership: 1.0% (19th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 5.5% (11th highest)

Only 2.1% of salary and wage workers in South Carolina are in a labor union, the smallest share of any state in the country. South Carolina is a manufacturing hub. BMW, Michelin, and Boeing all operate plants in the state. Recently, Gov. Nikki Haley announced her intentions to keep unions out of South Carolina, stating that corporations would not be welcome in her state if they bring a unionized workforce. Despite the governor’s intentions, union membership has increased slightly over the last decade. Union membership has gone up by 1.0% in the state since 2005, while nationwide membership waned by 5.7%.