Oregon Labor Market Information System
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Oregon's Union Membership
by Gail Krumenauer
Published Mar-25-2014

 
Oregon consistently outpaces the U.S. in union membership as a share of total employment. In 2013, 13.9 percent of Oregon's workers were union members, compared with 11.2 percent for the U.S. (Graph 1). Employees who are not union members but whose jobs are covered by union contracts slightly increased the share of union coverage beyond membership rates in both the U.S. and Oregon. The share of covered workers in Oregon totaled 14.9 percent, while the U.S. coverage rate was 12.4 percent in 2013.

Although Oregon's union membership exceeded the nation's each year from 2000 to 2013, both saw nearly equivalent membership declines over the period. Nationwide, unions shed 10.7 percent of their membership, generally through incremental losses from year to year. Oregon's membership bounced up and down more than the nation's over the years, but from 2000 to 2013 membership declined by a similar total of 11.0 percent.

Comparable union membership data are available back to 1983, when union membership totaled 17.7 million nationwide and 222,900 in Oregon. The U.S. has not since matched the 1983 membership level; the U.S. coverage level also peaked in 1983 at 20.5 million. Oregon reached its highest union membership (275,300) and coverage (295,000) totals in 1994.

Graph 1
Union membership and coverage rates Oregon and U.S. 2000-2013
Oregon and Other States
 
Despite declines in recent years, Oregon remains among the most unionized states. In 2013, Oregon's concentration of total union membership ranked 12th highest among the 50 states and the District of Columbia (Graph 2). The state's public-sector membership (50.9%) ranked 13th highest, and the private sector's 7.0 percent rate ranked 20th.

Oregon has relatively smaller union membership concentration in private manufacturing and construction compared with other states. In 2013, the union membership rate in manufacturing (7.5%) fell in the middle of the pack, ranking 26th. In construction, Oregon ranked 30th highest among the states with 9.5 percent membership.

Graph 2
Oregon union membership rankings 2013
Private-Sector Losses Drive Recent Trend
 
Oregon's overall union membership reductions from 2000 to 2013 reflect losses in private sector union membership (Graph 3). The state's membership decline of 25,800 (-11.0%) over the period resulted from a private-sector drop of 33,100 members (-27.2%), paired with a public-sector increase of 7,300 (+6.5%). Within the private sector, membership fell by more than half in private construction (-57.5%); significant declines also occurred in manufacturing (-43.0%). Since Oregon began this period of time with the private sector as a slight majority (52.0%) of union member totals, the steeper private-sector declines have impacted the total unionization rate in the state more than the smaller public-sector gains. By 2013, the private sector accounted for 42.6 percent of all union membership.

Year to year, the union membership trend fluctuates, and has shown gains as recently as 2011, when total membership rose by 24,100 (9.8%) on a combination of private-sector (1,800 or 1.6%) and public-sector (22,300 or 17.1%) increases. Still, the longer-term tendency has been lower union membership as a share of employment. This has been the case in both the private and public sectors: peak membership rates occurred in 1984 for private employment (18.7%), and 1995 for public employment (60.7%).

More information on union membership and coverage in Oregon, the U.S., and all other states can be found at unionstats.com

Graph 3
Private sector declining share of total union membership Oregon 2000-2013