Ballotpedia releases research on public-sector union membership
Nearly 50% of the country’s public-sector union employees are located in five states, according to a new Ballotpedia study released this week. This finding is based on data for 228 of the most prominent public-sector labor unions nationwide as selected based on media reports, consultation with local and state experts, and our own research efforts. In total, we counted 5,654,109 members in those 228 public-sector unions.
Throughout 2019, Ballotpedia researched and analyzed the membership, finances, and political spending of public-sector unions. We’ll be sharing these findings in the weeks ahead in Union Station—our newsletter covering the latest developments in public-sector union policy.
Since it is nearly impossible to collect comprehensive data on membership of every public-sector union, we identified the most prominent public-sector unions in each state and determined their membership. This included state-level affiliates of national unions, such as the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, AFSCME, and the Fraternal Order of Police.
The Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME in June 2018 that public-sector unions cannot require non-member employees to pay agency fees covering the costs of non-political union activities. This decision overturned precedent established by the Court in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education in 1977. That ruling held that non-union public employees could be required to pay labor union fees as long as they weren’t used for ideological or political purposes.
Among the 228 unions, these five states had the highest number of public-sector union members:
California: 811,483 members belonging to six large unions—approximately 14% of the nationwide total.
New York: 808,669 members belonging to five unions—14% of the nationwide total.
Illinois: 342,518 members belonging to five unions—6% of the nationwide total.
New Jersey: 324,750 members belonging to four unions—6% of the nationwide total.
Pennsylvania: 324,411 members belonging to five unions—6% of the nationwide total.
There are 2,611,831 public-sector union members in those five states which accounts for 46% of the nationwide total. There are 664,180 public-sector union members in the 25 states with the fewest members, about 12% of the nationwide total.
To learn more about our methodology, including a discussion of existing research and various challenges involved in collecting data, please review this article. For a complete breakdown of our membership data, including links to state-specific data sets, click the link below.