State union membership counters national trend

Indiana bucked a national trend in 2014 by experiencing an increase in labor union membership, new statistics released by the U. S. Labor Department show.

The Hoosier State saw union membership rise to 10.7 percent of the labor force last year, up from 9.3 percent in 2013.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics report, released Friday, said the Hoosier state had roughly 299,000 union members last year, compared with 249,000 the year before. The total number of employed in the state rose from 2.68 million to 2.8 million.

Nationally, the percent of workers who were members of unions in 2014 was 11.1 percent, down from 11.3 percent in each in the two preceding years.

Indiana has seen an increase in union membership the past two years despite enacting a Right to Work law in 2012 that was predicted to cripple labor unions. The state's union-membership rate in 2012 was 9.1 percent.

Still, the long-term trend has seen union membership fall dramatically in the state. About 21 percent of Indiana’s workers were union members in 1989.

Nationally, the Labor Department said public-sector workers have the highest union membership rate at nearly 36 percent. That's more than five times higher than membership of private-sector workers at less than 7 percent.

Workers in education, training and library jobs and in protective service jobs have the highest unionization rate, at 35 percent.

Earnings were higher for union members last year, at $970 a week versus $763 a week for non-union members.

One of the sharpest year-to-year drops in union membership came in Michigan: from 16.3 percent in 2013 to 14.5 percent in 2014. The decrease came in the first full year under the state's right-to-work law.

Among states, New York continued to have the highest union membership rate, at 24.6 percent while North Carolina once again had the lowest rate at 1.9 percent.

In raw numbers, 7.2 million employees in the public sector belonged to a union in 2014, compared with 7.4 million workers in the private sector.

Within the public sector, the union membership rate was highest for local government at 41.9 percent of the workforce, "which includes employees in heavily unionized occupations, such as teachers, police officers and firefighters," the report said.

Black workers had a higher union membership rate in 2014 (13.2 percent) than workers who were white (10.8 percent), Asian (10.4 percent) or Hispanic (9.2 percent).

North Carolina's 1.9-percent membership rate was followed by South Carolina at 2.2 percent, and Mississippi and Utah, each with a 3.7-percent rate.

New York had the highest unionization rate at 24.6 percent, followed by Alaska (22.8 percent) and Hawaii (21.8 percent).

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