Special Report

States With The Strongest And Weakest Unions

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50. South Carolina
> Workers in a labor union: 2.9% (total: 59,149)
> Change in union membership (2010-2020): -1.7 ppt. (11th lowest)
> Avg. annual wage: $44,380 (7th lowest)
> Most unionized occupational group: Production occupations

South Carolina is the only state where less than 3% of workers are union members. As is the case in many other states, production occupations, such as manufacturing, have the highest concentration of union membership in South Carolina.

Union membership has fallen in South Carolina over the last decade. The share of unionized workers in the state fell by 1.7 percentage points between 2010 and 2020. South Carolina is a so-called right-to-work state.

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49. North Carolina
> Workers in a labor union: 3.1% (total: 130,078)
> Change in union membership (2010-2020): 0.0 ppt. (19th highest)
> Avg. annual wage: $48,550 (22nd lowest)
> Most unionized occupational group: Production occupations

Only about 130,100 workers in North Carolina are in a labor union, or just 3.1% of the total work force. In many of the states with the weakest labor unions, membership has fallen in the last decade. In North Carolina, however, union members make up effectively the same share of the labor force as they did one decade ago.

As is the case nationwide, union membership is split evenly between the public and private sectors in North Carolina. Like other states with relatively low union membership, North Carolina is a right-to-work state.

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48. Utah
> Workers in a labor union: 3.6% (total: 51,075)
> Change in union membership (2010-2020): -2.9 ppt. (5th lowest)
> Avg. annual wage: $49,420 (24th lowest)
> Most unionized occupational group: Construction and extraction occupations

As recently as 2010, 6.5% of all workers in Utah were union members. As of 2020, that share dropped to just 3.6%. The 10-year decline in union membership is one of the largest of any state.

Jobs in construction and extraction have the highest concentration of unionized workers in the state. Major labor unions in Utah include the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Utah Education Association.

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47. South Dakota
> Workers in a labor union: 4.3% (total: 16,515)
> Change in union membership (2010-2020): -1.3 ppt. (16th lowest)
> Avg. annual wage: $42,920 (3rd lowest)
> Most unionized occupational group: Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations

There are over 384,700 people working in South Dakota — and only 16,515, or 4.3% of them, are members of a labor union. One decade ago, over 20,000 workers in the state were union members — 5.6% of the labor force.

Eroding union membership has been underway for a long time in South Dakota. The state enacted “right-to-work” laws in 1947, and union membership has been below 10% of the workforce since at least 1989, when records began.

Source: Sean Pavone / Getty Images

46. Tennessee
> Workers in a labor union: 4.3% (total: 116,387)
> Change in union membership (2010-2020): -0.3 ppt. (22nd highest)
> Avg. annual wage: $45,650 (12th lowest)
> Most unionized occupational group: Production occupations

There are 116,387 unionized workers in Tennessee, or 4.3% of the total workforce. Over the last decade, the share of the workforce in organized labor unions declined by 0.3 percentage points in the state.

Labor unions empower workers to negotiate higher wages, and partially as a result, states with low union membership rates typically have low average annual wages. In Tennessee, the average annual age is $45,650, 12th lowest among states.

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