Special Report

15 Cities Where Unions Are Disappearing

Source: Thinkstock

15. Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI
> Unionized workers 2006: 21.8%
> Unionized workers 2016: 14.0%
> 10 yr. workforce change: -51,985 (-2.7%)
> Industry shedding the most jobs: Manufacturing

The birthplace of the moving assembly line, Detroit was once a manufacturing powerhouse. Today, the Detroit metro area is a shadow of its former self. Increased automation of industrial operations and availability of cheap labor abroad have decimated the area’s manufacturing industry, which was once home some of the nation’s largest and most powerful labor unions.

In the last 10 years, union membership declined from 21.8% of the workforce to 14.0%, a 7.8 percentage point decline — the 15th steepest drop among U.S. metro areas and about seven times the decline nationwide.

Source: Thinkstock

14. Canton-Massillon, OH
> Unionized workers 2006: 19.6%
> Unionized workers 2016: 11.6%
> 10 yr. workforce change: +12,647 (+6.9%)
> Industry shedding the most jobs: Manufacturing

Union membership in the Canton-Massillon, Ohio metro area dropped from 19.6% of the workforce in 2006 to just 11.6% of the workforce in 2016. Public sector employees are more likely to belong to a labor union than private sector workers. As is generally the case in cities with shrinking labor unions, a shrinking public workforce partially explains declining union membership in the Canton-Massillon metro area. The number of public sector workers fell by 30.1% between 2006 and 2016. Meanwhile, private sector employment climbed 13.5%.

Source: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

13. Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA
> Unionized workers 2006: 17.8%
> Unionized workers 2016: 9.5%
> 10 yr. workforce change: +5,813 (+2.3%)
> Industry shedding the most jobs: Wholesale trade

The number of unionized workers in the Harrisburg metro area fell from about 45,300 in 2006 to only about 25,000 in 2016. Once a union stronghold, some 17.8% of the area’s workforce belonged to a union in 2006, well above the 12.0% share nationwide at the time. As of 2016, only 9.5% of the metro area workforce belonged to a union, a slightly smaller share than the 10.7% share of workers nationwide.

Union membership declines in the private sector accounted for most of the drop in Harrisburg-Carlisle. Union membership in the private sector declined by 50% in the last 10 years, even as total private sector employment climbed by 5.6%.

Source: Thinkstock

12. Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL
> Unionized workers 2006: 10.8%
> Unionized workers 2016: 2.4%
> 10 yr. workforce change: +30,821 (+15.6%)
> Industry shedding the most jobs: Construction

In 1943, Florida became the first state in the country to pass right-to-work laws, which usually prohibit unions and employers from entering into agreements such as employing only union members. Partially because Florida has been a right-to-work state for so long, private sector union membership is virtually non-existent in the Cape Coral-Fort Myers metro area. Only 1.2% of private sector workers are unionized, the same share as in 2006. The metro area’s 8.4 percentage point 10-year union membership decline was entirely in the public sector. In 2006, 60.8% of the public sector labor force were in a union. As of last year, only 12.4% of the metro area’s public sector workers were unionized.

Source: Gimas / Shutterstock.com

11. Amarillo, TX
> Unionized workers 2006: 10.1%
> Unionized workers 2016: 1.7%
> 10 yr. workforce change: +4,908 (+4.0%)
> Industry shedding the most jobs: Manufacturing

Manufacturing is one of the industries most likely to have unionized workers. In the face of increased reliance on automation and cheap labor abroad, the manufacturing industry has been shrinking in the United States. In the last 10 years the Amarillo metro area has shed some 1,800 manufacturing jobs, even as the overall metro area workforce netted nearly 5,000 new workers over the same period.

The shrinking manufacturing base likely contributed to the decline in overall union membership in Amarillo. Union membership in the area’s private sector, which includes manufacturing, totalled over 6,000 in 2006. Today, it has all but vanished.