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The most unionized states

The most unionized states
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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.

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#51. South Carolina
2/Khanrak // Wikimedia Commons

#51. South Carolina

- Employed population: 2 million
- Members of unions: 55,000 (2.7% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 72,000 (3.6% of employed population)

South Carolina is the least unionized of the 50 states, with a right-to-work law that dates to 1954. Last year, workers at a Boeing plant voted to join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, but the company has challenged the move before the National Labor Relations Board. Former Gov. Nikki Haley once said: “We’ll make the unions understand full well that they are not needed, not wanted, and not welcome in the state of South Carolina.”

#50. North Carolina
3/James Willamor // Flickr

#50. North Carolina

- Employed population: 4.3 million
- Members of unions: 118,000 (2.7% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 174,000 (4.0% of employed population)

One of the least unionized states, North Carolina has banned collective bargaining by public sector employees for 60 years. However, this year bills were introduced in the state legislature by lawmakers hoping to overturn the ban.

#49. Utah
4/Pasteur // Wikimedia Commons

#49. Utah

- Employed population: 1.3 million
- Members of unions: 56,000 (4.1% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 76,000 (5.7% of employed population)

Although Utah is scantily unionized, many plumbers, carpenters and construction workers are organized. Labor supporters say the Republican Party’s strong presence in the state, outnumbering Democrats five to one, puts a damper on union membership and organizing.

#48. Texas
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#48. Texas

- Employed population: 12 million
- Members of unions: 512,000 (4.3% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 653,000 (5.4% of employed population)

Union members in Texas are largely refinery workers, steelworkers, electricians, and firefighters in the state’s urban areas. Earlier this year, contract negotiations at a Dow Inc plant near Houston triggered a contentious lockout of union workers.

#47. Virginia
6/Sean Pavone // Shutterstock

#47. Virginia

- Employed population: 3.9 million
- Members of unions: 168,000 (4.3% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 213,000 (5.5% of employed population)

The rate of unionization in Virginia is among the nation’s lowest, tied with Texas at 4.3%. That’s less than half of what the state’s union membership was at its peak in 1992. Virginia has a right-to-work law, but voters in 2016 rejected a ballot initiative that would have enshrined it in the state constitution.

#46. Georgia
7/Brett Barnhill // Shutterstock

#46. Georgia

- Employed population: 4.5 million
- Members of unions: 201,000 (4.5% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 249,000 (5.6% of employed population)

Trade unions grew in Georgia after the Civil War when both black and white residents left farming and moved to jobs in cities. But the state remains largely agricultural, a sector in which union presence is not strong, and its three biggest employers are non-union military—Fort Benning, Fort Stewart, and Robins Air Force Base.

#45. Idaho
8/Robbymilo // Wikimedia Commons

#45. Idaho

- Employed population: 733,000
- Members of unions: 34,000 (4.7% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 41,000 (5.6% of employed population)

Municipal employees, firefighters, and machinists fill the ranks of unions in Idaho, where union members account for 4.7% of the state’s workers. That rate is the same as in 2013—its low in modern history.

#44. Arkansas
9/W. Scott McGill // Shutterstock

#44. Arkansas

- Employed population: 1.2 million
- Members of unions: 56,000 (4.8% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 62,000 (5.3% of employed population)

About one worker in 20 belongs to a union in Arkansas, where membership has largely been on the rise in recent years. Organizers say one reason is a renewed emphasis on trade education in schools that train students for work in fields that are unionized like construction and electrical work.

#43. Louisiana
10/Sean Pavone // Shutterstock

#43. Louisiana

- Employed population: 1.8 million
- Members of unions: 89,000 (5% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 104,000 (5.8% of employed population)

In 2018, union members accounted for one in 20 workers in Louisiana, where the major industries are oil, natural gas, and commercial fishing. The rate of union membership compares to a peak of 9.4% in 1993.

#42. Mississippi
11/Ken Lund // Wikimedia Commons

#42. Mississippi

- Employed population: 1.1 million
- Members of unions: 58,000 (5.1% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 80,000 (7.1% of employed population)

Mississippi was the site of a highly publicized major unionization effort in 2017, when the United Auto Workers campaigned to unionize a Nissan Motors automobile assembly plant in the city of Canton. The effort failed in a 62%-to-38% vote among over 3,500 workers.

#41. North Dakota
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#41. North Dakota

- Employed population: 343,000
- Members of unions: 18,000 (5.2% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 23,000 (6.7% of employed population)

Union membership was robust in North Dakota in the 1990s at just under 12% and representing above 15% of the state’s workers at the start of the decade. Experts attribute the high membership numbers to the state’s oil boom that has since ebbed. The current rate is less than half of what it was then.

#40. Arizona
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#40. Arizona

- Employed population: 2.9 million
- Members of unions: 156,000 (5.3% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 191,000 (6.5% of employed population)

The number of union members—many of whom are employed in roofing, plastering, and construction jobs—in Arizona is less than two-thirds of what it was at its peak in 2007 and 2008. Tens of thousands of teachers staged a state-wide strike in 2018 that was the largest teachers’ strike in U.S. history. It ended with the teachers winning substantial pay raises.

#39. Tennessee
14/Sean Pavone // Shutterstock

#39. Tennessee

- Employed population: 2.8 million
- Members of unions: 155,000 (5.5% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 179,000 (6.4% of employed population)

Just 5.5% of workers in Tennessee belong to trade unions, but experts say the rate is likely to grow. Construction is booming in Nashville with new corporate headquarters and luxury hotels. The boom is likely to spur the growth of craft labor unions to demand better wages as well as health and safety measures for construction workers.

#38. Florida
15/Jillian Cain Photography // Shutterstock

#38. Florida

- Employed population: 8.7 million
- Members of unions: 484,000 (5.6% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 588,000 (6.8% of employed population)

Union members in Florida include employees at hotels and restaurants, the state’s giant industries. The Service Trades Council Union represents 38,000 employees at Walt Disney World Resort, central Florida’s largest employer. Other big tourist sites such as Universal and SeaWorld are not unionized.

#37. South Dakota
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#37. South Dakota

- Employed population: 387,000
- Members of unions: 22,000 (5.6% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 28,000 (7.1% of employed population)

South Dakota was one of the first states in the country to enact a right-to-work law, with a constitutional amendment in 1946. The state also has an array of laws limiting recruitment, the right to work without union membership, and laws protecting temporary workers during strikes.

 

#36. Oklahoma
17/Oklahoma CIty Convention and Visitor's Bureau // Wikimedia Commons

#36. Oklahoma

- Employed population: 1.6 million
- Members of unions: 90,000 (5.7% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 117,000 (7.4% of employed population)

Oklahomans voted in favor of a right-to-work law in 2001 that meant workers in unionized jobs did not have to join up. Oklahoma teachers, unionized but not allowed to strike, walked off the job in 2018, in part because they were the lowest paid in the country. They won salary raises in the nine-day job action.

#35. Wyoming
18/J. Norman Reid // Shutterstock

#35. Wyoming

- Employed population: 235,000
- Members of unions: 15,000 (6.5% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 18,000 (7.7% of employed population)

Engineers, track maintenance workers, and iron and electrical workers affiliated with the state’s extensive freight rail system belong to unions in Wyoming. While 6.5% of the state workers are unionized, that’s just 15,000 people as it is so sparsely populated.

#34. Nebraska
19/Public Domain

#34. Nebraska

- Employed population: 882,000
- Members of unions: 59,000 (6.6% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 71,000 (8% of employed population)

Nebraska’s economy is dominated by the agricultural industry that is not historically unionized. Its unionization rate is slightly more than half of what it was 30 years ago, and membership has been declining more or less since the early 1990s.

#33. New Mexico
20/Asaavedra32 // Wikimedia Commons

#33. New Mexico

- Employed population: 812,000
- Members of unions: 56,000 (6.8% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 67,000 (8.2% of employed population)

Union membership in New Mexico has edged down slightly over the last decade. Economic experts say the state has struggled to create jobs and shifted away from heavily organized industries such as mining. The more unionized public sector has shed jobs, and industries doing the most hiring—such as health care and hospitality—are less organized.

#32. Kansas
21/Sean Pavone // Shutterstock

#32. Kansas

- Employed population: 1.3 million
- Members of unions: 90,000 (7% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 129,000 (10.1% of employed population)

The percentage of unionized workers in Kansas has held steady for the past decade. The state passed a right-to-work law, seen as a way to weaken unions, over six decades ago amid Cold War anti-communism. Unions in Kansas exist in some private sector workplaces such as the automotive, aviation, railroad, and construction industries but the largest union membership is found amongst public sector teachers, police, firefighters, and road workers.

#31. Iowa
22/Alan Light // Flickr

#31. Iowa

- Employed population: 1.5 million
- Members of unions: 113,000 (7.7% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 129,000 (8.8% of employed population)

Union membership has been dropping over the last five years in Iowa, which in 2017 enacted reforms that limited organized labor’s role in the workplace. Among the reforms, for many union workers, contract negotiations were limited to wages, eliminating benefits such as health insurance, vacation, and overtime pay. The reforms survived legal challenges and were upheld in May 2019 by the Iowa Supreme Court.

#30. Wisconsin
23/Public Domain

#30. Wisconsin

- Employed population: 2.7 million
- Members of unions: 219,000 (8.1% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 233,000 (8.6% of employed population)

Union membership is at a low of 8.1%, the same as in 2016. Wisconsin was the scene of a dramatic labor showdown in 2011, when then-Gov. Scott Walker took on public employee unions and limited their bargaining rights and influence. The Republican governor blamed public employees for the state’s fiscal problems, but his reforms sparked massive protests. Since then, teachers targeted by the reforms have had lower pay, reduced benefits, and higher turnover rates.

#29. Indiana
24/Momoneymoproblemz // Wikimedia Commons

#29. Indiana

- Employed population: 3 million
- Members of unions: 269,000 (8.8% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 283,000 (9.3% of employed population)

Unionization hit a 30-year low in 2018 at 8.8% in Indiana. One reason is automation, which has reduced the number of jobs at the state’s steel mills and other large industrial workplaces that historically were organized labor strongholds.

#28. Kentucky
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#28. Kentucky

- Employed population: 1.8 million
- Members of unions: 161,000 (8.9% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 207,000 (11.4% of employed population)

Union membership has been dropping in Kentucky in recent years and hovers near its low of 8.6%, the same as in 2008 and 2009. The decline is attributed to manufacturing that has moved out of state and to a right-to-work law that took effect in 2017.

#27. Alabama
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#27. Alabama

- Employed population: 2 million
- Members of unions: 180,000 (9.2% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 196,000 (10.1% of employed population)

About 180,000 workers, or 9.2%, belong to unions in Alabama, which hit a low of 7.4% in 2017. Many of the union workers in Alabama are government employees.

#26. Missouri
27/Brian Hillegas // Wikimedia Commons

#26. Missouri

- Employed population: 2.7 million
- Members of unions: 251,000 (9.4% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 283,000 (10.6% of employed population)

Union membership added 25,000 members in the last tally in Missouri, where nearly one in 10 workers belongs to organized labor. Last year, voters in a referendum soundly defeated a right-to-work law passed by the Republican legislature that would have allowed workers in unionized workplaces to opt out of joining and paying dues. It was the first time such a measure was defeated at the polls.

#25. District of Columbia
28/Songquan Deng // Shutterstock

#25. District of Columbia

- Employed population: 354,000
- Members of unions: 35,000 (9.9% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 41,000 (11.6% of employed population)

Union membership has held steady over the past decade in the District of Columbia, where the federal government is the largest employer. Last year the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents workers at federal agencies, could no longer deduct mandatory fees from workers who declined to join the local union. The court said forcing public employees to subsidize unions whose policies they might disagree with violated the workers’ free-speech rights.

#24. West Virginia
29/Darren Ringer // Wikimedia Commons

#24. West Virginia

- Employed population: 684,000
- Members of unions: 68,000 (10% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 74,000 (10.8% of employed population)

The coal-mining state of West Virginia was home to the United Mine Workers, founded in 1890 and once one of the nation’s most powerful and militant unions. Membership has declined as the industry and number of jobs have shrunk. Unionized teachers went on a two-day strike this year to oppose charter schools, and last year, a strike by West Virginia teachers for higher wages sparked a wave of walk-outs around the country.

#23. New Hampshire
30/AlexiusHoratius // Wikimedia Commons

#23. New Hampshire

- Employed population: 664,000
- Members of unions: 68,000 (10.2% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 77,000 (11.6% of employed population)

The rate of union membership in the “Live Free or Die” state of New Hampshire has changed little over the past decade, hovering at about 11–13%. In 2018, unionized firefighters won a local victory with the passage of a measure for cancer treatment benefits to be funded through workers’ compensation rather than their own insurance, ending a decades-old dispute.

 

#22. Delaware
31/Public Domain

#22. Delaware

- Employed population: 434,000
- Members of unions: 45,000 (10.3% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 47,000 (10.8% of employed population)

Union membership, from classroom teachers to construction and refinery workers, has been dropping over the past decade in Delaware. In May 2019, Governor John Carney signed a law extending collective bargaining for wages to all state employees. “State employees protect our communities, teach our children, clear our streets, and provide critical services for Delaware families,” said Carney. “They ought to be paid what they’re worth.”

#21. Vermont
32/Public Domain

#21. Vermont

- Employed population: 291,000
- Members of unions: 31,000 (10.5% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 34,000 (11.6% of employed population)

About one in 10 workers in Vermont belongs to a labor union, a rate that has been dropping for the last three years. Nearly two-thirds of the unionized workers are public sector employees such as government workers and teachers. The drop is a dramatic compared to 1964 when 19% of Vermont workers were union members.

#20. Colorado
33/Schlendiran // Wikimedia Commons

#20. Colorado

- Employed population: 2.6 million
- Members of unions: 281,000 (11% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 307,000 (12.0% of employed population)

At 11%, unionization is at its highest in Colorado in 30 years. One reason is growing membership in the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, where three-quarters of eligible teachers, nurses, counselors, and other school workers have opted to join.

#19. Maryland
34/Mbell1975 // Wikimedia Commons

#19. Maryland

- Employed population: 2.8 million
- Members of unions: 307,000 (11% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 336,000 (12.1% of employed population)

Union membership has edged down slightly over the last decade in Maryland, where one of the biggest labor organizations is the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Nurses at Johns Hopkins Hospital have been waging a campaign to unionize and join National United Nurses. Meanwhile, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has been locked in a battle with unionized musicians over plans to shorten its season and cut their pay.

#18. Montana
35/Paul Brady Photography // Shutterstock

#18. Montana

- Employed population: 427,000
- Members of unions: 50,000 (11.8% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 60,000 (14.0% of employed population)

Union membership in Montana has slipped over the past three years to just shy of 12%. In 2018, workers at a talc mill in Three Forks were locked out for nearly three months in contentious contract negotiations. The leader of the Three Forks union was elected in 2019 to head the Montana AFL-CIO, a union federation with 44,000 state members.

#17. Pennsylvania
36/Derek.cashman // Wikimedia Commons

#17. Pennsylvania

- Employed population: 5.6 million
- Members of unions: 701,000 (12.6% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 748,000 (13.4% of employed population)

While over 700,000 workers in Pennsylvania belong to labor unions, the rate is well off its peak of nearly 21% three decades ago. Nearly half of the unionized workers in the state are public sector employees—police, firefighters, teachers, prison guards, and government agency workers.

#16. Ohio
37/Public Domain

#16. Ohio

- Employed population: 5.1 million
- Members of unions: 639,000 (12.6% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 722,000 (14.3% of employed population)

Historically Ohio was a union powerhouse with its steelmaking and manufacturing industries, and both the United Mine Workers of America and Sheet Metal Workers International Association were founded here in the 19th century. Union membership has hovered at around 12% in recent years—a lot lower than the 20% membership unions had 30 years ago. The state has been the target of right-to-work and other conservative groups, which last year began promoting a campaign telling workers how to quit their unions.

#15. Maine
38/Christopher Boswell // Shutterstock

#15. Maine

- Employed population: 573,000
- Members of unions: 74,000 (12.9% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 85,000 (14.8% of employed population)

In the early 20th century, pulp, sawmill, and papermill workers formed the backbone of Maine’s labor movement. Today many of Maine’s unionized workers are state employees. Union membership grew last year to nearly 13% of state workers from 11.4% the previous year.

#14. Massachusetts
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#14. Massachusetts

- Employed population: 3.4 million
- Members of unions: 464,000 (13.7% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 493,000 (14.5% of employed population)

One of the most significant events in U.S. labor history took place in Massachusetts in 1912, when textile workers at Everett Mills staged the Bread and Roses strike. After a state law curtailed working hours for women and children, the mill cut their pay. A violent strike ensued, with women waving banners reading: “We want bread, and roses, too.” It ended in victory for the workers and marked a turning point in public support for trade unions.

#13. Illinois
40/Daniel Schwen // Wikimedia Commons

#13. Illinois

- Employed population: 5.7 million
- Members of unions: 786,000 (13.8% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 839,000 (14.7% of employed population)

Union membership hit its lowest point in 30 years in 2018 in Illinois, which has been above the U.S. average for decades. Republican Bruce Rauner, who was governor from 2015 to 2019, blamed public sector unions for the state’s many fiscal problems, including its pension debt and unbalanced budgets.

#12. Oregon
41/Pixabay

#12. Oregon

- Employed population: 1.7 million
- Members of unions: 242,000 (13.9% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 256,000 (14.7% of employed population)

Oregon was the first state to recognize Labor Day as a holiday in 1887, seven years before Congress declared it a federal holiday. Unionization reached a high in Oregon in the 1970s. Today, public-sector unions are politically influential, winning measures that have increased the minimum wage and mandated paid sick leave.

#11. Nevada
42/littlenySTOCK // Shutterstock

#11. Nevada

- Employed population: 1.4 million
- Members of unions: 191,000 (13.9% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 216,000 (15.7% of employed population)

Union membership has been making gains in Nevada, increasing in the last three years. The state’s largest group of unionized workers is known as the Culinary, comprising restaurant workers, bartenders, and other employees in the giant hospitality industry. Nearly all the workers on the famed Las Vegas Strip belong to a union.

#10. Michigan
43/Rachel KRamer // Wikimedia Commons

#10. Michigan

- Employed population: 4.3 million
- Members of unions: 625,000 (14.5% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 663,000 (15.4% of employed population)

As the center of America’s automobile manufacturing, Michigan was a formidable union powerhouse. The United Auto Workers (UAW) staged its first strike in 1937 at General Motors’ in Flint, which so violent that the governor sent National Guard troops to protect strikers from police. Still Michigan’s largest union, the UAW has some 400,000 members nationwide. In 2013, however, Michigan became a right-to-work state in 2013, and its union membership has seen a significant decline.

#9. California
44/Pixabay

#9. California

- Employed population: 16.4 million
- Members of unions: 2,405,000 (14.7% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 2,587,000 (15.8% of employed population)

Labor history was made in California in the 1960s and '70s, when activist Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers organized strikes and a nationwide boycott of California grapes to improve conditions and win contracts with growers. Today the largest number of union members in the country—2.4 million—live in California. Among the most influential and visible are unionized workers in the entertainment industry, from stunt performers and voiceover artists to writers, costume designers, and lighting technicians.

#8. New Jersey
45/Public Domain

#8. New Jersey

- Employed population: 3.9 million
- Members of unions: 587,000 (14.9% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 639,000 (16.2% of employed population)

Union membership has been slipping in New Jersey, in part because of the closing of casinos and losing unionized jobs in Atlantic City, a former gambling mecca. The number of state worker union jobs is also dropping. One of the biggest unions in the state represents workers at major retail grocery chains.

#7. Minnesota
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#7. Minnesota

- Employed population: 2.6 million
- Members of unions: 395,000 (15% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 421,000 (16.0% of employed population)

Union membership has held steady at about 15% in recent years but has been on a slow decline for three decades. Minnesota’s economy once depended on industries dominated by organized labor such as mining and manufacturing, but since then the number of jobs has significantly shrunk. Sectors in the workforce that have grown are retail and service jobs that typically are not unionized.

#6. Connecticut
47/Sean Pavone // Shutterstock

#6. Connecticut

- Employed population: 1.7 million
- Members of unions: 268,000 (16% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 280,000 (16.7% of employed population)

With 16% of its workers belonging to labor unions, Connecticut far exceeds the nationwide average. What makes the New England state stand out is the rate of unionization among state and local jobs. Research has shown that about two-thirds of Connecticut's government employees such as teachers and prison guards belong to unions, double the national rate.

#5. Rhode Island
48/Will Hart // Flickr

#5. Rhode Island

- Employed population: 479,000
- Members of unions: 83,000 (17.4% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 89,000 (18.5% of employed population)

The number of unionized workers in Rhode Island edged up in 2018 to hit its highest point in 15 years. Bitter contract negotiations at the state’s largest medical facility, Rhode Island Hospital, with the United Nurses and Allied Professionals union led to a three-day strike and one-day lockout in July 2018. Regionally, Rhode Island has the highest union membership in New England.

#4. Alaska
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#4. Alaska

- Employed population: 299,000
- Members of unions: 55,000 (18.5% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 60,000 (20.0% of employed population)

One in five workers is represented by a union in Alaska, where one in three jobs is tied to the oil and gas industry. Union membership rates have topped the national average for the past 30 years. In July 2019—at the height of the tourist and fishing season—members of the state’s ferry workers went on strike for the first time in over four decades.

#3. Washington
50/Oragne_Suede_Sofa // Wikimedia Commons

#3. Washington

- Employed population: 3.3 million
- Members of unions: 649,000 (19.8% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 671,000 (20.5% of employed population)

Labor unions are active in Washington where public school teachers and support staff statewide and regional heavy construction equipment operators and school bus drivers all went on strike in 2018. Other unionized workers—hotel employees, university student employees, and emergency medical technicians—all threatened to strike as part of negotiating contracts for wages and benefits. The state is the third most unionized in the country, with nearly one in five workers belonging to a union.

#2. New York
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#2. New York

- Employed population: 8.4 million
- Members of unions: 1,872,000 (22.3% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 2,027,000 (24.1% of employed population)

Nearly 2 million people in New York are union members, and about one in four workers is represented by organized labor. One of the biggest turning points in labor history took place in New York City in 1911, when the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, a sweatshop employing hundreds of young women, caught fire. Workers were trapped behind locked doors, and 146 people died. The tragedy exposed dangerous conditions and led to the creation of worker protections and safety codes. “The flame of the labor movement burns stronger than ever here in New York,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in 2018.

#1. Hawaii
52/Izabela23 // Shutterstock

#1. Hawaii

- Employed population: 601,000
- Members of unions: 139,000 (23.1% of employed population)
- Workers represented by unions: 146,000 (24.3% of employed population)

The nation’s highest union membership rate can be found in Hawaii. The labor movement began on the islands’ sugarcane plantations in the early 20th century, where immigrant workers were subjected to grueling conditions and little pay. Organized labor gained its footing in a 79-day strike on plantations in 1946. Today the unions are filled with public employees, manufacturing workers, and hospital workers.

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