Oregon’s Union Membership

by Gail Krumenauer

August 15, 2018

Oregon consistently outpaces the U.S. in union membership as a share of total employment. In 2017, 14.9 percent of Oregon’s workers were union members, compared with 10.7 percent for the U.S. 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 15.7 percent, while the U.S. coverage rate was 11.9 percent in 2017.

Nationwide, unions shed about 8 percent of their total membership between 2000 and 2017.  Although national union membership levels stayed relatively stable between 2010 and 2017, that still represented a declining share of total employment since they were expansion years with job gains. Oregon’s union membership rate fluctuated more than the nation’s over the years, but tended to stay near 15 percent from 2000 to 2017.
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.

Oregon and Other States

Oregon remains among the most unionized states. In 2017, Oregon’s concentration of total union membership ranked 12th highest among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The state’s public-sector membership (53.1%) ranked 8th highest, and the private sector’s 8.3 percent rate ranked 10th.
Oregon has relatively smaller union membership concentration in private manufacturing and construction compared with other states. In 2017, the union membership rate in manufacturing (8.3%) fell in the middle of the pack, ranking 23rd. In construction, Oregon ranked 15th highest among the states with 19.0 percent membership.

Private and Public Union Membership Roughly Even

Although the state’s private- and public-sector union membership rates differ, Oregon’s overall number of union members at private and public entities has been somewhat similar since 2000. The state began this period of time with the private sector as a slight majority (52.0%) of union member totals. After dipping to 42.6 percent of all union members in 2013, the share of private union membership rebounded to the majority (52.5%) in 2017.
Year to year, Oregon’s union membership trend fluctuates. 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.


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