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Union membership rate now higher in Illinois than Michigan

Tuesday, Aug 30, 2022 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* Illinois ranks 11th in largest unionized workforces, according to Stacker

To determine which states are the most unionized, Stacker looked at BLS data for 2021 (released in January 2022) and ranked each state according to its percentage of wage and salary workers who were members of labor unions.

Not surprisingly, the issue is politically polarized. Republicans overwhelmingly back right-to-work laws, and Democrats overwhelmingly side with their historic allies in labor. In fact, a red/blue map of the right-to-work states versus pro-union states looks nearly identical to that of the Electoral College.

Today, 27 states enforce right-to-work laws. These free-rider statutes extend the gains of union-won collective bargaining agreements to non-union workers who didn’t join or pay dues themselves. Predictably and as intended, many workers simply opt to piggyback instead of pitching in, which causes union membership and the influence of organized labor to dwindle. Big business prefers divided labor over organized labor for a reason. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median weekly wage for union members in the United States is $1,169 vs. $975 for nonunion workers.

In 2021, union membership stood at about 10.3% of the U.S. workforce. That’s a little more than half of the 20.1% that existed when BLS began tracking it in 1983. Three decades before that, in 1953, more than one in three private-sector workers were union members. Today, that number has dwindled to just 6.1%. Right-to-work legislation is decided at the state level, so the country’s remaining union members are not spread out evenly. […]

11. Illinois

    -Members of unions: 752,000 (13.9% of employed population)
    -Up 13,000 from 2020 (-0.4 percentage points)
    -Workers represented by unions: 818,000 (15.2% of employed population)
    -Up 30,000 from 2020 (no percentage point change)

* Great Lakes States

6. Minnesota

    -Members of unions: 416,000 (16% of employed population)
    -Up 18,000 from 2020 (+0.2 percentage points)
    -Workers represented by unions: 446,000 (17.1% of employed population)
    -Up 19,000 from 2020 (+0.1 percentage points)

12. Michigan

    -Members of unions: 540,000 (13.3% of employed population)
    -Down 64,000 from 2020 (-1.9 percentage points)
    -Workers represented by unions: 620,000 (15.3% of employed population)
    -Down 41,000 from 2020 (-1.3 percentage points)

18. Ohio

    -Members of unions: 596,000 (12% of employed population)
    -Down 41,000 from 2020 (-1.2 percentage points)
    -Workers represented by unions: 647,000 (13% of employed population)
    -Down 39,000 from 2020 (-1.2 percentage points)

25. Indiana

    -Members of unions: 256,000 (9% of employed population)
    -Up 21,000 from 2020 (+0.7 percentage points)
    -Workers represented by unions: 290,000 (10.2% of employed population)
    -Up 20,000 from 2020 (+0.7 percentage points)

28. Wisconsin

    -Members of unions: 215,000 (7.9% of employed population)
    -Down 12,000 from 2020 (-0.8 percentage points)
    -Workers represented by unions: 251,000 (9.3% of employed population)
    -Down 13,000 from 2020 (-0.9 percentage points)

* Other surrounding states

25. Missouri

    -Members of unions: 235,000 (9% of employed population)
    -Down 3,000 from 2020 (-0.4 percentage points)
    -Workers represented by unions: 266,000 (10.2% of employed population)
    -Up 12,000 from 2020 (+0.1 percentage points)

30. Kentucky

    -Members of unions: 126,000 (7.2% of employed population)
    -Down 1,000 from 2020 (-0.3 percentage points)
    -Workers represented by unions: 170,000 (9.8% of employed population)
    -Up 10,000 from 2020 (+0.4 percentage points)

32. Iowa

    -Members of unions: 93,000 (6.5% of employed population)
    -No change from 2020 (-0.1 percentage points)
    -Workers represented by unions: 118,000 (8.3% of employed population)
    -Down 10,000 from 2020 (-0.8 percentage points)

* Q&A with WBEZ reporter Esther Yoon-Ji Kang…

Q: So first of all, tell us more about the Illinois Right to Collective Bargaining Amendment. Proponents are calling it the Workers Rights Amendment right?

Kang: Right. The amendment actually just enshrines the right for workers to collectively bargain in the Illinois constitution. And so the words that they use are employees shall have the fundamental right, to collectively bargain for wages, hours and working conditions and to protect their economic welfare and safety at work and so only a handful of other states. have such a guarantee. Those are Hawaii, New York and Missouri. So Illinois, if this amendment passes, and Illinois would be part of that group.

Q: Well, the amendment would also bar the state from passing so-called Right to Work laws. Can you explain what the Right to Work laws actually do?

Kang: Sure, Right to Work laws, what they do is they give workers the freedom to choose whether they want to join a union or not. The law also say that employees actually can’t be forced to pay dues to a union. So if that workplace is already unionized, and you want to join this company, you don’t have to pay dues to a union. Supporters of Right to Work laws say that these laws give freedom to the workers to choose. But of course they weaken the union’s power to collectively bargain. As of now, 28 states actually have Right to Work laws, including some states around us, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, and Iowa all have these right to work laws.

Q: What does this polling suggest about whether or not this will pass?

Kang: Polling at the national level suggests there’s a lot of support for unions. One poll has it at 70% of Americans supporting unions and researchers say that that’s the highest level in decades. And also, you’re hearing a lot more about workers unionizing kind of everywhere. You’ve heard about Starbucks stores unionizing, Amazon workers trying to make that happen at warehouses. Just a few days ago, Intelligentsia in Chicago, cafe workers there also voted to unionize. And this week 500 workers at Howard Brown Health also voted to join, so there’s definitely a trend.

* Block Club Chicago

Howard Brown Health employees voted to unionize with the Illinois Nurses Association — a move employees say will address what they’ve called a toxic work culture at the LGBTQ-affirming health care organization. […]

Howard Brown Health is a federally qualified health center that employs several hundred people across its 12 clinics, the Broadway Youth Center and its resale shops. Howard Brown Health was founded in 1974 with a focus on serving LGBTQ people and other communities that are vulnerable.

Today, Howard Brown Health serves about 30,000 patients annually with a variety of services, including including primary care, dental services, pediatric care, counseling and HIV case management, testing and outreach. The organization has been on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, giving out more than 70,000 vaccinations and nearly 100,000 COVID-19 tests, said President and CEO David Ernesto Munar.

Since workers launched their campaign to unionize in February, Munar has said the organization would recognize the group if it forms and bargain in good faith. He congratulated the organizers in a statement Tuesday.

* Carbondale has the first unionized Starbucks location in southern Illinois. KFVS

According to a release from Starbucks Workers United and CMRJB, workers at the 1025 E. Main St. location won their union election on Thursday, August 11 by a tally of 11-2.

“It just goes to show that efforts to build a better future for everyone are worthwhile,” workers from the Carbondale location said in a statement.

A Richmond Heights location in Missouri also won their union election Thursday, becoming the fifth unionized location in St. Louis.

As of Thursday, according to the release, the Starbucks Workers United Movement has reached at least 210 unionized Starbucks.


  1. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Aug 30, 22 @ 9:20 am:

    Looking at Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin… Michigan…

    Illinois needs to lead, as the economic engine of the Midwest, in ensuring, not only fair labor, but unionized labor has a home, and is important to the fabric of this state.

    Thise critical of the proposed amendment, as an example, tattle on themselves, as they want *diminished* rights and *diminished* wages… to purposely hurt, not to help, Illinois and her workforce.

    Good on Minnesota… looking at Kentucky and Missouri, you see states continuing to diminish rights, and forcing its own people to turn on one another with economic means.

    Proud of Illinois.

  2. - Grandson of Man - Tuesday, Aug 30, 22 @ 9:26 am:

    We’re working on increasing unionization rates with the new infrastructure and climate laws, which create union-type jobs.

    The current president and governor support union rights. The former president said via his spox that he supports RTW because workers must sacrifice for “job creators.” The red state economy absolutely depends on worker powerlessness and a subservient attitude.

  3. - Lurker - Tuesday, Aug 30, 22 @ 9:29 am:

    I’m surprised to see the number of unions only slightly lower than the number of union workers; for example Illinois is 752k and 818k. Either there are a lot of unions with no members, which doesn’t seem to make sense, or some union workers belong to a lot of unions. (unless I am missing something)

  4. - DHS Drone - Tuesday, Aug 30, 22 @ 9:43 am:

    Lurker, my reading of that is showing you how many do not pay dues. Those who do not pay dues are not members but are represented by the union.

  5. - SaulGoodman - Tuesday, Aug 30, 22 @ 12:49 pm:

    Lurker - it doesn’t say “number of unions”. It says “members of unions” (i.e. those that sign a union card and pay dues) and “Workers represented by unions” (i.e. workers covered by CBAs who are NOT dues paying union members).

    The “workers represented” would include, for example, state workers who are represented by the AFSCME CBA but have decided to no be a union member.

  6. - Lurker - Tuesday, Aug 30, 22 @ 3:12 pm:

    Thank you both. I was so confused (banned punctuation)

  7. - Blue Dog - Tuesday, Aug 30, 22 @ 5:01 pm:

    A timely post for me for sure. As you know I fully support unions with my pocketbook. Last weekend I frequented an unionized Starbucks in Nevada. I struck up conversation with my server and asked her how it was going. She responded,’miserably’. She elaborated since unionizing, there tips have dropped off dramatically, and the meager benefits that they picked up weren’t close to comparable. I assured her that would change because I know Americans have huge wallets. So come on folks. Make me proud.

  8. - DHS Drone - Tuesday, Aug 30, 22 @ 6:22 pm:

    Gonna call “banned word” on that one Blue Dog. Tips drop once a starbucks unionized? Got anything besides anecdotal evidence? (And i’ll be clear i’m doubting even the veracity of the anecdote in this case.)

  9. - Blue Dog - Tuesday, Aug 30, 22 @ 6:25 pm:

    speaking for one server at one location. I hope it’s not the trend.

  10. - DHS Drone - Tuesday, Aug 30, 22 @ 6:29 pm:

    I have serious doubts whether most Starbucks customers even know if a store is union or not. I just don’t think it’s something most people pay attention to.

  11. - RNUG - Wednesday, Aug 31, 22 @ 12:40 am:

    If you’ve followed me, you know I think of unions more or less as a necessary evil to offset corporate power. I think they have their place when it comes to organizing for better wages, safety, and work conditions. But I’m not a fan of how unions impose mediocrity and protect incompetent workers. This is coming from a family where grandpa, dad, and one uncle were founders / charter members of a trade union.

    My reading of proposed Amendment 1 is that it is likely a step too far. I could support some of it … but it doesn’t belong enshrined in Illinois’ Constitution.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

* Afternoon roundup
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* Bears stuff
* Fun with numbers (and history)
* Giannoulias takes legal action against Coinbase
* Question of the day
* DCFS "On-the-Spot Hiring" event in Rockford drew double the expected crowd
* Open thread
* Isabel’s morning briefing
* * Live Coverage * Jimmy Weiss trial
* Live coverage
* Yesterday's stories

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