facebook twitter instagram linkedin google youtube vimeo tumblr yelp rss email podcast blog search brokercheck brokercheck

Newsletter February 2017


As industry has evolved in the United States over the decades, unions have become less formidable. In the early years of industrialization during the late 1890’s and then leading into the 1930’s and 1940’s, unions provided workers representation where workplace safety and fair wages were difficult for individuals to bargain for on their own.

As the U.S. economy transitioned to less of a manufacturing economy to more of a consumer economy, fewer workers had the need to be represented by a union. When the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics first started to gather comparable union data in 1983, there were 17.7 million union workers making up over 20% of the total workforce. At the end of 2016, union membership represented only 10.7% of workers nationwide.

The public sector has the highest level of union workers at over 35%, while the private sector’s workforce is made up of less than 7% union workers. Currently, union membership is about 11% of the total workforce, nearly half what it was in 1983.

Union membership can also vary from state to state, as some states are identified as right to work states with laws that prohibit union security agreements, or agreements between employers and labor unions. South Carolina, a right to work state, has the lowest union membership of any state at 1.6%. New York, which is not a right to work state, currently has the highest union membership at 23.6%.

For the most part, unions have usually been able to secure their members more generous wages and benefits, with the median weekly pay at $1,004 versus $802 for non-union workers as of 2016.

Click Here to Sign Up for Our Monthly Newsletter

Sources: BLS, Dept. of Labor