Union membership up more than 10% in Arkansas during 2019

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 2,378 views 

Union membership in Arkansas during 2019 was up more than 10%, going against the nationwide trend in which union numbers fell 1.15%. Union membership in the state also grew as a percentage of the number of employed, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The number of union members in the state was an estimated 62,000 in 2019, up 10.7% over the 56,000 in 2018, according to the BLS data. Union membership was 5.16% of total employment in Arkansas in 2019, up over the 4.76% in 2018.

Union membership numbers in Arkansas have seen wide swings in recent years. Following are union membership numbers between 2015 and 2019.
2019: 62,000
2018: 56,000
2017: 62,000
2016: 47,000
2015: 58,000

The number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions nationwide in 2019 was 14.574 million, down 1.15% from the 14.744 million in 2018. In 1983, the first year union membership info was collected, the country had 17.7 million union members. Union membership was 10.3% of total U.S. employment in 2019, down from 10.5% in 2018.

Following are U.S. union membership numbers between 2015 and 2019.
2019: 14.574 million
2018: 14.744 million
2017: 14.817 million
2016: 14.555 million
2015: 14.84 million

U.S. jobs represented by a union totaled 16.383 million in 2019, and 11.6% of the total number of employed. In 2018, jobs represented by unions totaled 16.380 million, or 11.7% of the total employed.

In Arkansas, 71,000 jobs were represented by unions in 2019, which was 5.9% of the total workforce. There were 62,000 jobs represented by unions in 2018, or 5.3% of the total employed.

Dwayne Young, business representative and president of the Central South Carpenters Regional Council, said membership growth in the sector comes from working with contractors.

“In my case, I deal mainly with construction and construction unions. I think the one reason for that (member growth) is that we partner with the contractors, and whatever training they need, we offer that for free. … And we’ve really been focused on educating our members on productivity.” Young said. “If the contractor is not competitive, then the union won’t survive. We have to help them be competitive.”

Young also said construction unions have been successful in landing work on the casino projects in Hot Springs (Oaklawn), Pine Bluff and West Memphis (Southland). He also said Central South Carpenters and the Southern States Millwrights Regional Council are two of several partners working to build a $5 million office and training center in Russellville. The center should be open no later than early 2022, he said.

Arkansas’ construction sector added an estimated 2,200 jobs in 2019, growing from 50,600 jobs in December 2018 to 52,800 jobs in December 2019.

Following are other findings in the recent BLS report on union membership.
• The union membership rate of public-sector workers (33.6%) continued to be more than five times higher than the rate of private-sector workers (6.2%).
• The highest unionization rates were among workers in protective service occupations (33.8%) and in education, training, and library occupations (33.1%).
• Men continued to have a higher union membership rate (10.8%) than women (9.7%).
• Nonunion workers had median weekly earnings that were 81% of earnings for workers who were union members ($892 versus $1,095).
• Among states, Hawaii and New York had the highest union membership rates (23.5% and 21%, respectively), while South Carolina and North Carolina had the lowest (2.2% and 2.3%, respectively).
• In 2019, 7.1 million employees in the public sector belonged to a union, compared with 7.5
million workers in the private sector.
• Within the public sector, the union membership rate was highest in local government (39.4%), which employs many workers in heavily unionized occupations, such as police officers, firefighters, and teachers.
• Private-sector industries with high unionization rates included utilities (23.4%), transportation and warehousing (16.1%), and telecommunications (14.1%). Low unionization rates occurred in finance (1.1%), insurance (1.4%), professional and technical services (1.4%), and food services and drinking places (1.4%).