Kent-Ionia Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO

Growing and strengthening west Michigan's middle class

Facts and figures on union membership for 2015, Michigan sees uptick in union members

WASHINGTON DC February 5, 2016– Last week, the U.S. Department of Labor released its annual report on union membership and earnings.

US-dept-of-laborNationally, the union membership rate– the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of unions– remained largely unchanged from 2014 to 2015. It was 11.1 percent both years. The number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions, at 14.8 million in 2015, was also little different from 2014.

Here in Michigan, union membership rose in 2015; the percentage of all employees with union membership jumped from 14.5 to 15.2. This is a huge turn-around after union membership declined drastically in 2014, going from 16.3 percent to 14.5 percent. It still remains lower than it was in 2013, the year Michigan’s legislature enacted the right-to-work law.

Highlights from the national 2015 data:

  • Public-sector workers had a union membership rate (35.2 percent) more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers (6.7 percent).
  • Workers in protective service occupations and in education, training, and library occupations had the highest unionization rates (36.3 percent and 35.5 percent, respectively).
  • Men continued to have a slightly higher union membership rate (11.5 percent) than women (10.6 percent).
  • Black workers were more likely to be union members than were White, Asian, or Hispanic workers.
  • Median weekly earnings of nonunion workers ($776) were 79 percent of earnings for workers who were union members ($980). (The comparisons of earnings in this release are on a broad level and do not control for many factors that can be important in explaining earnings differences.)
  • Among states, New York continued to have the highest union membership rate (24.7 percent), while South Carolina had the lowest (2.1 percent).

Industry and Occupation of Union Members

In 2015, 7.2 million employees in the public sector belonged to a union, compared with 7.6 million workers in the private sector. The union membership rate for public-sector workers (35.2 percent) was substantially higher than the rate for private-sector workers (6.7 percent). Within the public sector, the union membership rate was highest for local government (41.3 percent), which includes employees in heavily unionized occupations, such as teachers, police officers, and firefighters. In the private sector, industries with high unionization rates included utilities (21.4 percent), transportation and warehousing (18.9 percent), educational services (13.7 percent), telecommunications (13.3 percent), and construction (13.2 percent). Low unionization rates occurred in agriculture and related industries (1.2 percent), finance (1.3 percent), food services and drinking places (1.5 percent), and professional and technical services (1.7 percent).

Among occupational groups, the highest unionization rates in 2015 were in protective service occupations (36.3 percent) and in education, training, and library occupations (35.5 percent). The lowest unionization rates were in farming, fishing, and forestry occupations (1.9 percent) and in sales and related occupations (3.3 percent).

Selected Characteristics of Union Members

In 2015, the union membership rate continued to be slightly higher for men (11.5 percent) than for women (10.6 percent). (See table 1.) The gap between their rates has narrowed considerably since 1983 (the earliest year for which comparable data are available), when rates for men and women were 24.7 percent and 14.6 percent, respectively.

Among major race and ethnicity groups, Black workers continued to have a higher union membership rate in 2015 (13.6 percent) than workers who were White (10.8 percent), Asian (9.8 percent), or Hispanic (9.4 percent).

By age, union membership rates continued to be highest among workers ages 45 to 64.

In 2015, 13.6 percent of workers ages 45 to 54 and 14.3 percent of those ages 55 to 64 were union members.

The union membership rate was 12.2 percent for full-time workers, more than twice the rate for part-time workers, 5.9 percent.

Union Representation

In 2015, 16.4 million wage and salary workers were represented by a union. This group includes both union members (14.8 million) and workers who report no union affiliation but whose jobs are covered by a union contract (1.6 million).


Among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had median usual weekly earnings of $980 in 2015, while those who were not union members had median weekly earnings of $776. In addition to coverage by a collective bargaining agreement, this earnings difference reflects a variety of influences, including variations in the distributions of union members and nonunion employees by occupation, industry, age, firm size, or geographic region.


This entry was posted on February 5, 2016 by in Michigan labor news and tagged , , , .

Kent-Ionia Labor Council

The Kent-Ionia Labor Council, AFL-CIO is a coalition of west Michigan labor unions in Kent and Ionia Counties, based in Grand Rapids.

Address, phone, email

918 Benjamin NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

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