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50 Years Of Shrinking Union Membership, In One Map

Fifty years ago, nearly a third of U.S. workers belonged to a union. Today, it's one in 10. But the decline has not been the same for every state. Here is a map showing how union membership has changed across the country.

A few notes on the map:

  • In 1964, the Midwest was full of manufacturing jobs and had the highest concentration of union workers in America. That has changed dramatically — both because the share of jobs in manufacturing has fallen, and because fewer of the manufacturing jobs that remain are held by union workers.
  • New York has the highest share of union workers in the country. The main story here is the public sector: 71 percent of government workers in New York state belong to unions. Nationwide, 36 percent of government employees are in unions, compared to just 7 percent of workers in the private sector.
  • Alaska and Hawaii have the second and third highest rates of union membership. In Hawaii, union membership is particularly strong among hospitality workers; in Alaska, it's strong in infrastructure jobs like road building. Also, government jobs make up a bigger share of the job markets in these two states than in some other parts of the country.
  • Unions have never really been a thing in the South. Even in the '60's, the share of union workers was still only half of that in the Northeast, Midwest, and West. This is partly cultural. People here have long been less supportive of unions than people in other parts of the country. And in several Southern states, collective bargaining for key public sector employees is prohibited by law.
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