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Unions: 10 percent of US workers are union members

February 24, 2020

Some 10.3 percent of US employees, 14.6 million of 142 million, were members of unions in 2019, down from almost 18 million union members in 1983. Some 16.4 million workers were represented by unions in 2019, meaning that almost two million workers covered by collective bargaining agreements did not join the union that negotiated the agreement under which they work.

Unions are strongest in the public sector, where 7.1 million workers or 34 percent of employees were union members, and weaker in the private sector, where 7.5 million or six percent of employees were union members.

By occupation, a third of workers in protective services such as police and fire, and a third of teachers, were union members, while only two percent of workers in farming, some 18,000, were union members in 2019.

Men were slightly more likely to be union members than women, 11 percent of men and 10 percent of women employees were union members. About 11 percent of Black workers were union members, compared to 10 percent of white workers, nine percent of Asian workers, and nine percent of Hispanic workers.

Hawaii and New York had the highest union membership rates, with over 20 percent of employees union members, while North and South Carolina had the lowest rates, less than three percent of employees were union members.

Unionized workers had higher weekly earnings, almost $1,100, than nonunion workers, $900.

There were 25 major work stoppages involving 1,000 or more workers in 2019, more than the average 15 major work stoppages a year between 2010 and 2019. Over half of the 425,500 workers who went on strike were teachers, who were often on strike only for a few days.

The work stoppage that involved the most work days lost was between General Motors and the United Auto Workers in September-October 2019. Over 85 percent of US work stoppages occur in workplaces with fewer than 1,000 employees, and half are in places with fewer than 100 employees.

BLS. 2020. Union Members Summary.

BLS. 2020. Major Work Stoppages in 2019

10% of the 142 million employed US workers in 2019 were union members

Union affiliation of employed wage and salary workers by selected characteristics, 2018-2019 annual averages [Numbers in thousands]
Characteristic 2018 2019
Total employed Members of unions Represented by unions Total employed Members of unions Represented by unions
Total Percent of employed Total Percent of employed Total Percent of employed Total Percent of employed
AGE AND SEX
Total, 16 years and over 140,099 14,744 10.5 16,380 11.7 141,737 14,574 10.3 16,383 11.6
  16 to 24 years 18,698 823 4.4 966 5.2 18,869 827 4.4 977 5.2
  25 years and over 121,401 13,921 11.5 15,415 12.7 122,868 13,747 11.2 15,406 12.5
    25 to 34 years 33,232 3,084 9.3 3,452 10.4 33,718 2,973 8.8 3,464 10.3
    35 to 44 years 29,433 3,445 11.7 3,802 12.9 29,898 3,515 11.8 3,906 13.1
    45 to 54 years 28,525 3,664 12.8 4,029 14.1 28,191 3,543 12.6 3,918 13.9
    55 to 64 years 22,839 3,041 13.3 3,355 14.7 23,207 2,952 12.7 3,266 14.1
    65 years and over 7,372 687 9.3 777 10.5 7,854 764 9.7 852 10.9
 
Men, 16 years and over 72,632 8,082 11.1 8,868 12.2 73,349 7,950 10.8 8,845 12.1
  16 to 24 years 9,366 513 5.5 587 6.3 9,449 495 5.2 574 6.1
  25 years and over 63,266 7,569 12.0 8,281 13.1 63,899 7,455 11.7 8,271 12.9
    25 to 34 years 17,710 1,781 10.1 1,957 11.0 17,892 1,648 9.2 1,922 10.7
    35 to 44 years 15,617 1,884 12.1 2,057 13.2 15,811 1,958 12.4 2,136 13.5
    45 to 54 years 14,593 1,934 13.3 2,109 14.5 14,363 1,923 13.4 2,088 14.5
    55 to 64 years 11,575 1,611 13.9 1,752 15.1 11,777 1,520 12.9 1,674 14.2
    65 years and over 3,771 360 9.5 405 10.8 4,056 406 10.0 451 11.1
 
Women, 16 years and over 67,467 6,662 9.9 7,512 11.1 68,388 6,624 9.7 7,538 11.0
  16 to 24 years 9,332 310 3.3 379 4.1 9,420 332 3.5 403 4.3
  25 years and over 58,135 6,352 10.9 7,134 12.3 58,969 6,292 10.7 7,135 12.1
      25 to 34 years 15,521 1,303 8.4 1,495 9.6 15,826 1,326 8.4 1,541 9.7
    35 to 44 years 13,817 1,561 11.3 1,744 12.6 14,086 1,557 11.1 1,770 12.6
    45 to 54 years 13,932 1,730 12.4 1,920 13.8 13,828 1,620 11.7 1,830 13.2
    55 to 64 years 11,264 1,430 12.7 1,603 14.2 11,430 1,431 12.5 1,592 13.9
    65 years and over 3,601 327 9.1 372 10.3 3,797 357 9.4 401 10.6
 
RACE, HISPANIC OR LATINO ETHNICITY, AND SEX
White, 16 years and over 108,164 11,215 10.4 12,471 11.5 109,132 11,208 10.3 12,583 11.5
  Men 57,132 6,311 11.0 6,920 12.1 57,537 6,280 10.9 6,965 12.1
  Women 51,032 4,904 9.6 5,551 10.9 51,594 4,928 9.6 5,618 10.9
 
Black or African American, 16 years and over 17,994 2,258 12.5 2,487 13.8 18,231 2,043 11.2 2,310 12.7
  Men 8,330 1,111 13.3 1,221 14.7 8,440 1,002 11.9 1,132 13.4
  Women 9,664 1,147 11.9 1,266 13.1 9,791 1,042 10.6 1,178 12.0
 
Asian, 16 years and over 8,973 758 8.4 855 9.5 9,291 817 8.8 932 10.0
  Men 4,652 375 8.1 416 8.9 4,795 384 8.0 438 9.1
  Women 4,321 383 8.9 439 10.2 4,496 433 9.6 494 11.0
 
Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, 16 years and over 24,591 2,239 9.1 2,482 10.1 25,417 2,258 8.9 2,590 10.2
  Men 13,775 1,304 9.5 1,443 10.5 14,100 1,312 9.3 1,490 10.6
  Women 10,815 934 8.6 1,039 9.6 11,317 947 8.4 1,099 9.7

There were fewer union members in 2019 than in 1983

A third of US workers were union members in the 1950s

There are almost an equal number of public and private sector union members

Over 425,000 workers were involved in work stoppages that involved 1,000 or more workers in 2019