Cities With the Strongest Unions

Union membership in the United States has been steadily declining for decades. The number of salaried U.S. workers belonging to unions increased in only 11 years since 1984, leading to net loss of more than 3.3 million members, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In 2021, the number of union workers declined by 241,000 to 14 million.

In the private sector, union membership is declining faster than in the public sector. Last year, the share of union-represented workers at companies and other private establishments was just 6.1%, compared to 33.9% for public employees like bureaucrats, police, and teachers. Both shares have declined since 2010, pushing down the total percentage of unionized employees from 11.9% to 10.3% last year.

Some recent progress has been made, notably in successful union votes in the digital news industry, at more than 50 Starbucks stores, and an Amazon.com warehouse. But those successes have been scattershot. From 2011 to 2017, unions gained 102,000 members, but in the past four years they have lost 805,000 members.

Considering this decades-long nationwide erosion in organized labor — six more states enacted so-called “right-to-work” laws since 2000 — you might be wondering where in the country unions have the strongest muscle. (These are the labor laws your boss doesn’t want you to know about.)

To find the metropolitan areas with the most union members, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed union membership data for 2021 from Unionstats.com, a database constructed by Barry Hirsch (Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University) and David Macpherson (Department of Economics, Trinity University). Metropolitan areas are ranked by the union membership rate. In the 26 metros on the list, at least 20% of those employed are union members.

Perhaps it is no surprise that New York and California, both blue states with enormous workforces, rank among the states with the largest number of metropolitan areas with union representation above 20%. But there are five metros where union membership is above 30% of the local workforce, and the city with the largest unionized workforce may surprise you as it is a small city in a red, right-to-work, landlocked state. (These are the states with the highest union membership.)

Here’s the most unionized city in America
Click here to see our detailed methodology

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