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Union advantage remains despite low density in North Carolina

Jeremy Sprinkle
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Taking a closer look at 2011 data

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has released its annual accounting of union membership in the United States and found that membership levels remained essentially unchanged in 2011 at 11.8% when compared to the year before at 11.9%.

In 2011, 16.3 million wage and salary earners nationwide were represented by a union, and 14.8 million were themselves union members.

New York led the nation with 24.1% union membership with Alaska (22.1%) and Hawaii (21.5%) rounding out the top 3.

North Carolina - at 2.9% - had the lowest number of union members as a percentage of the state workforce. Not surprisingly, all states with the five lowest union density rates are in the South - including our neighbors South Carolina (3.4%), George (3.9%), and Tennesee and Virginia (4.6% each).

However, union members continue to join a significant advantage in wages and salary over their non-union counterparts.

According to the 2011 report, "among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had median usual weekly earnings of $938, while those who were not union members had median weekly earnings of $729." That equates to about 29% higher pay for union members.

The union wage advantage was even greater for female workers. Union women earned median weekly pay of $879 compared to just $653 for their nonunion counterparts - 34.6% advantage for union women.

"Prior reporting shows that union members have greater access to health care, retirement and leave benefits," said U.S. Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, in announcing the new data. "Today’s numbers make it clear that union jobs are critical to a strong economy."

"Ensuring that all people have a voice at work and protecting their right to organize and bargain collectively is essential for an America that’s built to last, where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone pays their fair share and everyone plays by the same rules."

Click here to read the full annual report on union membership.