Oregon’s Union Membership

by Tony Wendel

November 14, 2022

Oregon consistently outpaces the U.S. in union membership as a share of total employment. In 2021, 17.8% of Oregon’s workers were union members, compared with 10.3% for the United States. 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 18.8%, while the U.S. coverage rate was 11.6% in 2021.

Nationwide, unions shed about 14.0% of their total membership between 2001 and 2021. Although national union membership levels stayed relatively stable between 2011 and 2021, that still represented a declining share of total employment since these were mostly expansion years with job gains. Oregon’s union membership rate fluctuated more than the nation’s from 2001 to 2021, but tended to stay near 15%.

Graph showing union membership and coverage rates, Oregon and U.S., 2001-2021

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’s 2021 totals are its highest for union membership (318,000) and coverage (335,900).

Oregon and Other States

Oregon remains among the most unionized states. In 2021, Oregon’s concentration of total union membership ranked fourth highest among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The state’s public-sector membership (57.7%) ranked fifth highest, and the private sector’s 9.4% rate ranked fourth.

Graph showing Oregon union membership rankings, 2021

Oregon has relatively smaller union membership concentration in private manufacturing compared with other states. In 2021, the union membership rate in manufacturing (4.5%) fell in the lower half, ranking 37th, compared with 28th in 2020. In construction, Oregon ranked 15th highest among all states, with 15.9% union membership.

Public Union Membership Leads Private Union Membership

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 beginning in 2002. From 1983 to 2002, there were only four years where private-sector union membership was lower than public-sector membership. The private sector’s highest share of union membership (61.4%) was in 1984. Since 2003, the public sector’s share of union membership has been higher every year. The public sector had its highest share of union membership (57.4%) in 2013.

Graph showing private and public shares of total union membership in Oregon, 2001-2021


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 in 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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