According to the
Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 15.5 percent
(74,000) of Rhode Island private and public sector workers were
union members in 2016. This represented an over-the-year
increase of one and three-tenths percentage points. The number
of union members, up 6,000 from 68,000 in 2015, was at its
highest level since 2013.
Nationally, the union membership rate was 10.7 percent in 2016,
down four-tenths of a percentage point from 2015 and well below
the 20.1 percent measured in 1983. Among the fifty states, Rhode
Island reported the eighth highest union membership rate,
trailing New York (23.6%), Hawaii (19.9%), Alaska (18.5%),
Connecticut (17.5%), Washington (17.4%), New Jersey (16.1%) and
California (15.9%). South Carolina (1.6%), North Carolina
(3.0%), Arkansas (3.9%) and Georgia (3.9%) had the lowest union
membership rates in 2016.
Connecticut (17.5%) had the highest union membership rate in New
England, followed by Rhode Island (15.5%), Massachusetts
(12.1%), Vermont (11.5%) and Maine (11.4%). Only New Hampshire
(9.4%) had union membership rates below the national average.
Union members and workers whose jobs
are covered by a union or employee association contract
represented 12.0 percent of the nation’s wage and salary workers
and 16.9 percent of Rhode Island’s wage and salary workers.
* 1983 is the first year for which comparable union data
Data included within this report is derived from the Current Population
Survey (CPS), a monthly survey of households conducted by the Bureau of
Census for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Union membership data refers to
members of a labor union or an employee association similar to a union.
Union representation data includes union members as well as workers who
report no union affiliation, but whose jobs are covered by a union or an
employee association contract. For more information on CPS data, please