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States With The ‘Strongest’ Unions - 2019 Edition: Washington, New York, California, Connecticut & Rhode Island Round Out The Top Five

Published Sunday, November 3, 2019
by Ben Geier/SmartAsset
States With The ‘Strongest’ Unions - 2019 Edition: Washington, New York, California, Connecticut & Rhode Island Round Out The Top Five

Unions can be effective tools for collective bargaining.

They represent Workers in negotiations with management to uphold Workers’ Rights, including fair wages.

According to a 2018 report on Full-Time Workers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Non-Union Workers earned just 82% of the median weekly amount that Union-represented Workers earned.

Being able to make a fair wage is necessary in order to budget properly and build up your savings account, but the power of Unions in the U.S. varies significantly across different locations.

Some states are Union Hotbeds, where Organized Labor is a major player in business and politics.

In other states, Unions don’t hold as much sway.

SmartAsset decided to see where Unions are the strongest.

To find the states with the strongest Unions, we analyzed data across the following eight metrics: Number of Union Members; The percentage of Workers who are Union Members; Five-year change in Union Membership; Average annual wage for all occupations; Average annual wage for Middle School Teachers; The salary ratio of Teachers to all occupations; The average wage for Firefighters; and the salary ratio of Firefighters to all occupations.

We looked specifically at Teachers and Firefighters, because according to the BLS, the highest Unionization Rates among occupational groups in 2018 were in Protective Service Occupations (33.9%) and in Education, Training and Library Occupations (33.8%).

Firefighters and Middle School Teachers are prominent occupations within both of those industries and Workers in these jobs tend to make salaries toward the middle of the ranges for all occupations within those industries.

Our Key Findings - Unions are stronger on the coasts.  The East Coast populates the Top 10, with six states located in the Northeast.  The other four states in the top 10 are either on the West Coast or in the Pacific.  No states from the interior of the country are in the Top 10.  Unions are weaker in the South.  Eight of the bottom 10 states in our study in are in the South.  Many of them do particularly poorly in terms of number of Union Members and percentage of Workers belonging to a Union.

Here is our ranking:

  1. Washington - Washington State kicks off this list. It doesn’t lead any single metric, but places in the top five for several. Washington has the third highest percentage of Workers being Union Members, 19.80% and the fifth highest number of Union Members overall, more than 658,000. Washington also has the fourth highest annual wage for all occupations, $59,410.
  2. New York - New York has the second-highest number of total Union Members, at more than 1.8 million. It also has the second-highest percentage of Workers belonging to Unions, 22.29%, and the second-highest annual wage for all occupations, $61,870. Middle School Teachers in the state make $83,490 on average - the highest amount for this metric in the study.
  3. California - California ranks third overall and it has the highest number of Union Members of any state, at more than 2.4 million. The percentage of Workers in Unions in California is just 14.67%, which ranks a bit lower than some other states in this Top 10, but still comes in ninth overall. Union Membership in California has gone down 2.59% in the past five years. Firefighters in California earn $81,580 on average, the highest amount in the study.  That is 137.92% of the average for all occupations, the second-highest ratio for this metric in the study.
  4. Connecticut - The average annual wage across all occupations in Connecticut is $60,780, the third-highest in the study. Firefighters earn $63,630 on average, the seventh-highest average in the study. That’s 104.69% of the average across all occupations, a Top 20 rate.  Connecticut comes in sixth overall in terms of the percentage of Workers in Unions, at 15.93%

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