For release 10:00 a.m. (EST) Thursday, January 28, 2016 USDL-16-0158
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UNION MEMBERS -- 2015
The union membership rate--the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of
unions--was 11.1 percent in 2015, unchanged from 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
reported today. The number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions, at 14.8
million in 2015, was little different from 2014. In 1983, the first year for which
comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent, and
there were 17.7 million union workers.
The data on union membership are collected as part of the Current Population Survey
(CPS), a monthly sample survey of about 60,000 eligible households that obtains
information on employment and unemployment among the nation's civilian noninstitutional
population age 16 and over. For more information, see the Technical Note.
Highlights from the 2015 data:
• Public-sector workers had a union membership rate (35.2 percent) more
than five times higher than that of private-sector workers (6.7 percent).
(See table 3.)
• Workers in protective service occupations and in education, training,
and library occupations had the highest unionization rates (36.3 percent
and 35.5 percent, respectively). (See table 3.)
• Men continued to have a slightly higher union membership rate (11.5
percent) than women (10.6 percent). (See table 1.)
• Black workers were more likely to be union members than were White,
Asian, or Hispanic workers. (See table 1.)
• Median weekly earnings of nonunion workers ($776) were 79 percent of
earnings for workers who were union members ($980). (The comparisons
of earnings in this release are on a broad level and do not control for
many factors that can be important in explaining earnings differences.)
(See table 2.)
• Among states, New York continued to have the highest union membership
rate (24.7 percent), while South Carolina had the lowest (2.1 percent).
(See table 5.)
Industry and Occupation of Union Members
In 2015, 7.2 million employees in the public sector belonged to a union, compared with
7.6 million workers in the private sector. The union membership rate for public-sector
workers (35.2 percent) was substantially higher than the rate for private-sector workers
(6.7 percent). Within the public sector, the union membership rate was highest for local
government (41.3 percent), which includes employees in heavily unionized occupations,
such as teachers, police officers, and firefighters. In the private sector, industries
with high unionization rates included utilities (21.4 percent), transportation and
warehousing (18.9 percent), educational services (13.7 percent), telecommunications
(13.3 percent), and construction (13.2 percent). Low unionization rates occurred in
agriculture and related industries (1.2 percent), finance (1.3 percent), food services
and drinking places (1.5 percent), and professional and technical services (1.7 percent).
(See table 3.)
Among occupational groups, the highest unionization rates in 2015 were in protective
service occupations (36.3 percent) and in education, training, and library occupations
(35.5 percent). The lowest unionization rates were in farming, fishing, and forestry
occupations (1.9 percent) and in sales and related occupations (3.3 percent).
(See table 3.)
Selected Characteristics of Union Members
In 2015, the union membership rate continued to be slightly higher for men (11.5
percent) than for women (10.6 percent). (See table 1.) The gap between their rates
has narrowed considerably since 1983 (the earliest year for which comparable data are
available), when rates for men and women were 24.7 percent and 14.6 percent, respectively.
Among major race and ethnicity groups, Black workers continued to have a higher union
membership rate in 2015 (13.6 percent) than workers who were White (10.8 percent), Asian
(9.8 percent), or Hispanic (9.4 percent).
By age, union membership rates continued to be highest among workers ages 45 to 64.
In 2015, 13.6 percent of workers ages 45 to 54 and 14.3 percent of those ages 55 to
64 were union members.
The union membership rate was 12.2 percent for full-time workers, more than twice
the rate for part-time workers, 5.9 percent.
In 2015, 16.4 million wage and salary workers were represented by a union. This group
includes both union members (14.8 million) and workers who report no union affiliation
but whose jobs are covered by a union contract (1.6 million). (See table 1.)
Among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had median usual weekly
earnings of $980 in 2015, while those who were not union members had median weekly
earnings of $776. In addition to coverage by a collective bargaining agreement, this
earnings difference reflects a variety of influences, including variations in the
distributions of union members and nonunion employees by occupation, industry, age,
firm size, or geographic region. (See tables 2 and 4.)
Union Membership by State
In 2015, 30 states and the District of Columbia had union membership rates below
that of the U.S. average, 11.1 percent, and 20 states had rates above it. All states
in the East South Central and West South Central divisions had union membership rates
below the national average, and all states in the Middle Atlantic and Pacific divisions
had rates above it. Union membership rates increased over the year in 24 states and
the District of Columbia, declined in 23 states, and were unchanged in 3 states.
(See table 5.)
Five states had union membership rates below 5.0 percent in 2015: South Carolina
(2.1 percent), North Carolina (3.0 percent), Utah (3.9 percent), Georgia (4.0 percent),
and Texas (4.5 percent). Two states had union membership rates over 20.0 percent in
2015: New York (24.7 percent) and Hawaii (20.4 percent).
State union membership levels depend on both the employment level and the union
membership rate. The largest numbers of union members lived in California (2.5 million)
and New York (2.0 million). Roughly half of the 14.8 million union members in the
U.S. lived in just seven states (California, 2.5 million; New York, 2.0 million;
Illinois, 0.8 million; Pennsylvania, 0.7 million; and Michigan, Ohio, and New Jersey,
0.6 million each), though these states accounted for only about one-third of wage and
salary employment nationally.