Union Membership Up in Ohio, But Down Nationwide

Union membership in Ohio was up in 2016 despite unionization rates falling to new record lows nationally. In Ohio, 12.4 percent (roughly 617,000) of workers are in unions. Nationally, the union membership rate was 10.7 percent in 2016, down from 11.1 percent in 2015, and down from 20.1% in 1983 (the first year for which comparable union data is available).

Union members in the U.S. and Ohio earned considerably more than their non-union counterparts. Median weekly earnings for union workers last year were $1,004 compared to $802 for non-union workers. This alone should make more people want to be in a union, but it doesn’t.

Ohio is ranked 14th among the 50 states and Washington D.C. for the highest union membership rate. New York is the leader with 23.6%, while South Carolina has the lowest unionization rate of 1.6%.

Union members everywhere tend to be middle-age or older workers. In 2016, nearly 27% of workers between 45 and 64 were union members. Another 10% were 65 or older. Conversely, less than 14% of union members are under 34 years old. This may account for why union rates continue to decline. As the aging population exits the workforce, the attraction and devotion to unions is leaving, too.

Some other quick statistics include:

  • Men continue to have a slightly higher union membership rate (11.2%) than women (10.2%) although the gap between their rates has narrowed considerably since 1983.
  • Black workers (13.0%) were more likely to be union members than were White (10.5%), Asian (9.0%), or Hispanic workers (8.8%).
  • The union membership rate was 11.8% for full-time workers, more than twice the rate for part-time workers at 5.7%.
  • Over half of the 14.6 million union members in the U.S. live in just 7 states, although these 7 states accounted for one-third of the wage and salary employment nationally: California (2.6 million), New York (1.9 million), Illinois (800,000), Pennsylvania (700,000), and Michigan, New Jersey, and Ohio (600,000).

For those companies wanting to stay union-free, the following seems to be the recipe for success: Be in South Carolina and hire only part-time, female, Hispanic workers. If you can’t do that, then call me for help.

Matt Austin who owns Austin Legal, LLC, a boutique law firm based in Ohio that limits its representation to employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. You can call Matt at (614) 285-5342 or email him at Matt@MattAustinLaborLaw.com.