The most unionized cities in America
spotlight AP

The most unionized cities in America

{{featured_button_text}}

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

With the global economy in flux due to the coronavirus outbreak, worker protections have been under increased scrutiny. Massive layoffs, especially in the retail, leisure, and hospitality industries, have left millions of Americans without a steady paycheck or benefits. Unfortunately, some of the hardest hit industries also report low union membership rates, making workers even more vulnerable.

Union membership in the U.S. has declined significantly over the past several decades—a result of more states passing “right-to-work” laws and changes in the composition of the U.S. labor force. Many of the fastest-growing industries have low rates of union participation. In 1979, 24 percent of U.S. employees belonged to a union. By contrast, only 10.3 percent of American workers were union members in 2019. In nominal numbers, union membership accounted for roughly 14.6 million workers in 2019, approximately 6.5 million fewer than the 1979 peak.


Industry sectors with the highest union membership rates include government, transportation, utilities, and construction. In each of these sectors, union membership rates are above the national average of 10.3 percent. By contrast, employees who work in finance, professional services, leisure, and wholesale/retail trade are far less likely to belong to a union. Union membership in each of these industries is below 5 percent.


Differences in local economies, politics, and legislation also impact union membership rates. Coastal states such as Hawaii, New York, and Washington have the highest membership rates, at 23.4 percent, 21 percent, and 18.8 percent, respectively. Conversely, more conservative Southern states, such as North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Texas, and Georgia, have membership rates below 5 percent.


To find the most unionized places in America, researchers at Construction Coverage, a review site for commercial auto and construction insurance, analyzed union membership and coverage data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and UnionStats.com. They ranked the metropolitan areas with the highest and lowest union membership rates. In addition to union membership, the researchers also included statistics on union representation, which is the share of workers whose terms of work are collectively negotiated (whether or not they are union members).

Only metro areas with a population of 100,000 or more were included in the analysis. To improve relevance, metros were grouped into size cohorts based on population size: large metros (1,000,000 residents or more), midsize metros (350,000-999,999 residents), and small metros (less than 350,000 residents). Like the statewide trends, metros on the East and West Coast tend to have the highest union membership, while Southern metros have the least.


Here’s the full list of most and least unionized cities in America.


The Most Unionized Large Metros

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

1. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA

  • Union membership rate: 22.2%
  • Union representation rate: 24.2%
  • Workers who are members of unions: 398,721
  • Workers who are represented by unions: 434,233
  • Total employment: 1,792,823

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

2. New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA

  • Union membership rate: 19.1%
  • Union representation rate: 20.8%
  • Workers who are members of unions: 1,693,495
  • Workers who are represented by unions: 1,839,468
  • Total employment: 8,847,590

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

3. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA

  • Union membership rate: 18.9%
  • Union representation rate: 20.2%
  • Workers who are members of unions: 381,489
  • Workers who are represented by unions: 407,159
  • Total employment: 2,017,109

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

4. Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade, CA

  • Union membership rate: 17.6%
  • Union representation rate: 20.2%
  • Workers who are members of unions: 182,528
  • Workers who are represented by unions: 209,151
  • Total employment: 1,035,905

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

5. Providence-Warwick, RI-MA

  • Union membership rate: 16.7%
  • Union representation rate: 18.5%
  • Workers who are members of unions: 122,526
  • Workers who are represented by unions: 135,688
  • Total employment: 734,125

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

6. Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV

  • Union membership rate: 15.4%
  • Union representation rate: 17.1%
  • Workers who are members of unions: 153,730
  • Workers who are represented by unions: 170,667
  • Total employment: 998,129

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

7. St. Louis, MO-IL

  • Union membership rate: 14.8%
  • Union representation rate: 15.8%
  • Workers who are members of unions: 192,430
  • Workers who are represented by unions: 206,058
  • Total employment: 1,302,999

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

8. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA

  • Union membership rate: 14.5%
  • Union representation rate: 15.0%
  • Workers who are members of unions: 323,824
  • Workers who are represented by unions: 334,763
  • Total employment: 2,227,936

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

9. Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY

  • Union membership rate: 14.4%
  • Union representation rate: 16.3%
  • Workers who are members of unions: 70,638
  • Workers who are represented by unions: 79,812
  • Total employment: 489,287

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

10. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI

  • Union membership rate: 14.1%
  • Union representation rate: 14.6%
  • Workers who are members of unions: 249,827
  • Workers who are represented by unions: 258,417
  • Total employment: 1,771,101

The Least Unionized Large Metros

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

1. Austin-Round Rock, TX

  • Union membership rate: 2.3%
  • Union representation rate: 2.6%
  • Workers who are members of unions: 22,526
  • Workers who are represented by unions: 25,133
  • Total employment: 980,579

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

2. Raleigh, NC

  • Union membership rate: 2.4%
  • Union representation rate: 3.8%
  • Workers who are members of unions: 17,115
  • Workers who are represented by unions: 27,574
  • Total employment: 721,802

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

3. Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC

  • Union membership rate: 2.4%
  • Union representation rate: 3.2%
  • Workers who are members of unions: 29,149
  • Workers who are represented by unions: 38,638
  • Total employment: 1,218,180

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

4. San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX

  • Union membership rate: 3.4%
  • Union representation rate: 4.0%
  • Workers who are members of unions: 40,268
  • Workers who are represented by unions: 47,372
  • Total employment: 1,175,497

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

5. Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX

  • Union membership rate: 3.7%
  • Union representation rate: 4.3%
  • Workers who are members of unions: 110,390
  • Workers who are represented by unions: 127,052
  • Total employment: 2,950,449

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

6. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA

  • Union membership rate: 4.1%
  • Union representation rate: 5.1%
  • Workers who are members of unions: 114,555
  • Workers who are represented by unions: 139,506
  • Total employment: 2,761,236

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

7. Richmond, VA

  • Union membership rate: 4.2%
  • Union representation rate: 5.1%
  • Workers who are members of unions: 24,338
  • Workers who are represented by unions: 29,398
  • Total employment: 578,295

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

8. Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN

  • Union membership rate: 4.6%
  • Union representation rate: 5.6%
  • Workers who are members of unions: 43,569
  • Workers who are represented by unions: 52,741
  • Total employment: 944,354

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

9. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX

  • Union membership rate: 4.9%
  • Union representation rate: 6.6%
  • Workers who are members of unions: 183,799
  • Workers who are represented by unions: 250,742
  • Total employment: 3,786,232

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

10. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL

  • Union membership rate: 5.1%
  • Union representation rate: 6.3%
  • Workers who are members of unions: 68,502
  • Workers who are represented by unions: 84,781
  • Total employment: 1,352,880

Methodology & Detailed Findings

Data on union membership and coverage is from UnionStats.com. Metropolitan areas were ordered by union membership rate. In the event of a tie, the location with more total union members was ranked higher.

Union workers not only have more protection from unemployment, they also enjoy wage premiums over non-union workers. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that in 2019, the median wage for full-time union workers was $1,095 per week compared to $892 per week for full-time non-union workers. A major reason for this is union workers’ ability to benefit from the union’s collective bargaining power, rather than relying on individual negotiations with an employer.


Union membership tends to be lowest for the youngest workers. Workers aged 16-24 and 25-34 have membership rates below 10 percent, compared to 11.8 percent for workers aged 35-44 and 12.6 percent for workers ages 45-54. Declining union membership among young workers could be an indication of even lower rates overall in the future.


In times of crisis, workers not represented by unions may face worse consequences than workers represented by unions, and locations with lower union membership rates might also be less resilient to economic hardship. Looking toward a post-COVID-19 future, the need for emergency protections for vulnerable workers will remain a hot-button issue as the nation starts its path toward healing.

Concerned about COVID-19?

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

News Alert

Breaking News