Oregon’s Union Membership

by Tony Wendel

May 11, 2021

Oregon consistently outpaces the U.S. in union membership as a share of total employment. In 2020, 16.2% of Oregon’s workers were union members, compared with 10.8% 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 17.2%, while the U.S. coverage rate was 12.1% in 2020.

Nationwide, unions shed about 12.4% of their total membership between 2000 and 2020. Although national union membership levels stayed relatively stable between 2010 and 2020, 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% from 2000 to 2020.
Comparable union membership data are available back to 1983, when union membership totaled 17.7 million nationwide and 222,900 in Oregon. Since then, the U.S. has not matched its peak membership level in 1983. Coincidentally, 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 2020, Oregon’s concentration of total union membership ranked 7th highest among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The state’s public-sector membership (52.3%) ranked 10th highest, and the private sector’s 8.9% rate ranked ninth.
Oregon has relatively smaller union membership concentration in private manufacturing compared with other states. In 2020, the union membership rate in manufacturing (6.4%) fell in the middle of the pack, ranking 28th. In construction, Oregon ranked sixth highest among the states with 23.1% 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 in both private and public-sector entities began to lean more heavily toward public-sector membership 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% of all union members in 2013, the share of private-sector union membership has rebounded to 46.0% in 2020.
Year to year, Oregon’s union membership trend fluctuates. The long-term trend has shown decreasing union membership as a share of total employment. This has been the case in both the private and public sectors: peak membership rates occurred in 1984 for private-sector employment (18.7%) and 1995 for public-sector 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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