According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics review, over half of the 14.5 million union members in the U.S. lived in just seven states (California, 2.4 million; New York, 2.0 million; Illinois, 0.9 million; Pennsylvania, 0.7 million; and Michigan, New Jersey, and Ohio, 0.6 million each), though these states accounted for only about one-third of wage and salary employment nationally.
And while the number of union members remained stagnant or declined in most other states, union membership increased in Illinois from 801,000 members in 2012 to 851,000 members in 2013, raising the unionized workforce percentage from 14.6 percent in 2012 to 15.8 percent in 2013.
In the last 30 years, union membership rate nationwide fell from 20.1 percent, when there were 17.7 million union workers in 1983, to 11.3 percent, or 14.5 million union workers in 2013.
Labor unions have become a major issue in Illinois' GOP gubernatorial primary, as Chicago businessman Bruce Rauner has promised to curtail the political power of what he calls "corrupt union bosses." Unions are angered by Rauner's call for reform in light of neighboring Midwestern states such as Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio taking on collective bargaining and right to work efforts.
Public sector unions that organize state and county government employees are pooling members' dues into political action committees and independent expediture committees to fund TV ads and mailers designed to energize union members to oppose Rauner's anti-union efforts. However, polls show Rauner leading in the GOP primary.
Highlights from the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2013 data:
- Public-sector workers had a union membership rate (35.3 percent) more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers (6.7 percent).
- Workers in education, training, and library occupations and in protective service occupations had the highest unionization rate, at 35.3 percent for each occupation group.
- Men had a higher union membership rate (11.9 percent) than women (10.5 percent).
- Black workers were more likely to be union members than white, Asian, or Hispanic workers.
- Among states, New York continued to have the highest union membership rate (24.4 percent), and North Carolina had the lowest rate (3.0 percent).