When 24/7 Wall Street picked the top ten worse states for unions and worker rights it is not surprising that the top seven are in the South. The region has historically had been hostile to unions and workers rights. Some of the resentment is left over from the civil rights days when unions were in the forefront of the civil rights movement.
1. North Carolina
- Pct. of workers in unions: 2.9%
- Union workers: 111,482 (21st lowest)
- 10-yr. change in union membership: -1.3% (31st largest decrease)
- Total employment: 3,804,593 (9th highest)
With just 2.9% of employees in a labor union in 2012, North Carolina is the least-unionized state in the entire country. Only 1.8% of private sector workers were members of a labor union as of 2012, lower than any state except for South Carolina and Arkansas. In addition, only 8.8% of public employees in the state belong to a union, the lowest rate in the country. While the number of public sector jobs grew 20% between 2002 and 2012, the percentage of public workers unionized declined from 10.5% in 2002. Although many right-to-work proponents claim that deunionization helps spur job creation, North Carolina’s lack of union representation has not led to low unemployment — the unemployment rate in the state as of December 2012 was 9.2%, the fifth highest rate in the country.
- Pct. of workers in unions: 3.2%
- Union workers: 36,667 (6th lowest)
- 10-yr. change in union membership: -42.1% (2nd largest decrease)
- Total employment: 1,155,140 (18th lowest)
Arkansas has the second smallest percentage of unionized workers, due primarily to the decline in private sector membership. Between 2002 and 2012, private sector union membership dropped by almost 62%. As of 2012, a mere 1.4% of private sector workers were covered by labor unions, lower than any other state except for South Carolina. Union manufacturing jobs in the state decreased by nearly 75% over the past 10 years, while total manufacturing employment decreased by just 20.6%. Arkansas is one of just a handful of states where right-to-work laws are embedded in the state’s constitution.
3. South Carolina
- Pct. of workers in unions: 3.3%
- Union workers: 58,413 (12th lowest)
- 10-yr. change in union membership: -29.3% (7th largest decrease)
- Total employment: 1,773,172 (24th highest)
Just one in 30 workers in South Carolina belongs to a union, one of the lowest rates in the country. A paltry 1.3% of private sector workers in the state belong to a union, the lowest percentage in the entire country. Over the past 10 years, private sector union membership declined by 61.7%, more than any other state except for Arkansas. The state’s governor, Nikki Haley, has taken a vocal anti-union stance since taking office in 2011. In an interview with Fox News back in 2012, Haley said: “There’s a reason that South Carolina’s the new ‘it’ state. It’s because we are a union buster.”
- Pct. of workers in unions: 4.3%
- Union workers: 47,875 (8th lowest)
- 10-yr. change in union membership: -32.2% (3rd largest decrease)
- Total employment: 1,115,953 (17th lowest)
Total union membership in Mississippi was just over 4% last year, with total membership declining nearly a third in the past 10 years. Private union membership was cut in half between 2002 and 2012, falling from 6% to 3%. This was one of the largest decreases of all states. However, membership in public sector unions actually rose nearly 12%, significantly more than any of the bottom 10 states on this list. The economic situation in Mississippi is especially grim. The state’s median household income of $36,919 was the lowest in the U.S., as was the poverty rate of 22.6%.
- Pct. of workers in unions: 4.4% (tied for 5th lowest)
- Union workers: 159,512 (24th highest)
- 10-yr. change in union membership: -18.8% (15th largest decrease)
- Total employment: 3,594,507 (12th highest)
Virginia has one of the lowest unionization rates in the country in both the private and public sectors. A mere 3% of private sector workers in the state were unionized in 2012. Just over 10% of public sector employees were covered by a union in 2012, a lower percentage than all but two states and down from 15.6% in 2002. Labor unions did eke out a small victory in January, when the Virginia Senate narrowly rejected a proposal to add right-to-work provisions to the state constitution. The state’s right-to-work law is still in effect by statute.