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For years, proponents of labor unions have expressed concern over the drop in the percentage of workers who are union members.
The drop is real. In 1983, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent of the workforce. On Jan. 23, 2015, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that for 2014, the union membership rate fell 0.2 percent from 2013, to 11.1 percent.
But the picture is less stark for union advocates when considering the number of union members, which may have plateaued. From 2013 to 2014, the number of union members held steady at 14.6 million.
Cracks in Labor Strongholds
Still, there are some glaring holes in labor’s armor, particularly where it traditionally has been strongest.
More than half of the nation’s union members live in just seven states:
Of these, only New Jersey saw an increase in union members in 2014. Notably, these seven states represent one-third of wages nationally.
Most of the states that experienced rises in union membership in 2014 saw only small increases:
Larger Decreases Elsewhere
The states that experienced a loss of union members saw larger percentage decreases than the year-over-year gains in other states:
High and Low Rates of Unionized Jobs
Public-sector workers had a union membership rate of 35.7 percent in 2014. The union membership rate in the public sector was highest for teachers, police officers and firefighters.
In the private sector, industries with the highest unionization rates were utilities (22.3 percent), transportation and warehousing (19.6 percent), telecommunications (14.8 percent), and construction (13.9 percent).
Low unionization rates were found in agriculture (1.1 percent), finance (1.3 percent), professional and technical services (1.4 percent), and food services and bars (1.4 percent).
Allen Smith, J.D., is the manager of workplace law content for SHRM. Follow him
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