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The most unionized states

Stacker Logo By Ellen Dewitt of Stacker | Slide 1 of 52: Since rising to prominence in the 19th century during the Industrial Revolution, labor unions have existed intending to protect and advance the rights of workers. U.S. union membership reached its peak in the mid-to-late 20th century when roughly a third of the nation’s workforce belonged to a union as a result of advanced collective bargaining efforts.

Membership has fallen drastically since President Ronald Reagan’s administration in the 1980s waged a fierce assault on labor. Massive job losses in the recession of 2008–2009—more than a million construction workers lost their jobs—lowered union ranks further.

Today the nation’s union membership rate is 10.5%, down slightly from 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of people belonging to unions is 14.7 million.

Membership among public-sector workers is about a third, over five times higher than private-sector workers. The highest unionization rates are among workers in protective service jobs like firefighters and educators. Hawaii and New York had the highest union memberships, and North Carolina and South Carolina the lowest. Non-union workers earned less per week—a median of $860 vs. $1,051—than union workers.

Some critics argue that unions stifle competition and leave employers beholden to unreasonable stipulations. More than half of states (27) have right-to-work laws that weaken unions by giving workers a choice of whether to join up and pay dues in a unionized workplace.

In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling along the same lines. The court decided government workers did not have to pay dues to the union representing them in collective bargaining. Compelling them to pay violated the right to free speech by forcing workers to fund political activities they might not agree with, the court said.

Supporters say unions are critical in providing workers decent wages, benefits, and the job security they deserve. Missouri voters in 2018 defeated a right-to-work proposal law, the first time such a measure lost at the polls.

Stacker looked at U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data as of January 2019 and ranked each state according to its percentage of wage and salary earners who were members of labor unions.

You may also like: Best place to find a job in every state

The most unionized states

Since rising to prominence in the 19th century during the Industrial Revolution, labor unions have existed intending to protect and advance the rights of workers. U.S. union membership reached its peak in the mid-to-late 20th century when roughly a third of the nation’s workforce belonged to a union as a result of advanced collective bargaining efforts.

Membership has fallen drastically since President Ronald Reagan’s administration in the 1980s waged a fierce assault on labor. Massive job losses in the recession of 2008–2009—more than a million construction workers lost their jobs—lowered union ranks further.

Today the nation’s union membership rate is 10.5%, down slightly from 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of people belonging to unions is 14.7 million.

Membership among public-sector workers is about a third, over five times higher than private-sector workers. The highest unionization rates are among workers in protective service jobs like firefighters and educators. Hawaii and New York had the highest union memberships, and North Carolina and South Carolina the lowest. Non-union workers earned less per week—a median of $860 vs. $1,051—than union workers.

Some critics argue that unions stifle competition and leave employers beholden to unreasonable stipulations. More than half of states (27) have right-to-work laws that weaken unions by giving workers a choice of whether to join up and pay dues in a unionized workplace.

In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling along the same lines. The court decided government workers did not have to pay dues to the union representing them in collective bargaining. Compelling them to pay violated the right to free speech by forcing workers to fund political activities they might not agree with, the court said.

Supporters say unions are critical in providing workers decent wages, benefits, and the job security they deserve. Missouri voters in 2018 defeated a right-to-work proposal law, the first time such a measure lost at the polls.

Stacker looked at U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data as of January 2019 and ranked each state according to its percentage of wage and salary earners who were members of labor unions.

You may also like: Best place to find a job in every state

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