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January 23, 2013 at 2:42 PM

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Union membership declines in Washington

American unionism continues to decline. The percentage of workers in unions fell in Washington in 2012 and in 33 other states, but the state maintained its rank as the fourth most unionized state.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
, the national average of workers (public and private) in unions was 11.3 percent in 2012. In Washington it was 18.5 percent, down from 19 percent in 2011. The percentage decline reflected a decline of 4,000 union members statewide, to 513,000, and an increase in 49,000 jobs, to 2,776,000.

Of Washington workers 19.5 percent were represented by unions in 2012, down from 20.4 percent in 2011. More workers are represented by unions than are members because some contracts allow represented workers not to join, and because federal law allows workers to resign their membership and stop paying part of their union dues.

Washington’s union density was greater than that of Oregon, where 15.7 percent of workers were members in 2012, and Idaho, 4.8 percent. Unlike Washington and Oregon, Idaho is a “right to work” state that allows represented workers to decline membership and pay no dues.

Three states were more unionized than Washington: New York, where 23.2 percent of workers were union members; Alaska, 22.4 percent; and Hawaii, 21.6 percent. The lowest union density was in North Carolina, 2.9 percent.

Union membership is much higher in the public sector (35.9 percent nationwide) than the private sector (6.6 percent), where there is much more pressure on employers to be competitive.

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