4.4% of Georgia Workers Are Union Members, 8th Lowest in the U.S.

Staff Report

Wednesday, September 6th, 2023

Labor unions in the United States have faced major challenges over the last several decades. Anti-union initiatives by employers, the growing prominence of the gig economy, and shifting labor laws, among other factors, all contributed to a steady decline in union membership. But recently, interest in unionization has resurfaced. The narrowly averted UPS strike and notable strikes by writers and actors in Hollywood have garnered major interest and made headlines nationwide. Desires for better compensation and working conditions have once again taken center stage.

Union workers not only have more protection from unemployment, they also enjoy wage premiums over non-union workers. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that in 2022, the median wage for full-time union workers was $1,216 per week compared to only $1,029 per week for full-time non-union workers. In other words, union workers earn about 18% more than their non-union counterparts, which for the typical worker, is nearly $10,000 in additional compensation annually. A major reason for this wage disparity is union workers’ ability to benefit from the union’s collective bargaining power, rather than relying on individual negotiations with an employer.

Although union members on average earn more than their non-union worker counterparts, union membership in the U.S. has declined significantly over the past several decades. This downward trend is in part due to more states passing so-called “right-to-work” laws, and changes in the composition of the U.S. labor force. In 1979, the union membership rate peaked at just over 24% of U.S. employees. By contrast, only 10.1% of American workers were union members in 2022. In nominal numbers, union membership accounted for roughly 14.3 million workers in 2022, approximately 6.7 million fewer than the 1979 peak.

Although union membership rates are declining nationally, differences in local economies, politics, and legislation can impact union membership rates at the state level. Coastal states such as Hawaii, New York, and Washington have the highest membership rates, at 21.7%, 20.6%, and 18.0%, respectively. Conversely, Southern states—many of which have right-to-work legislation enacted—tend to have lower union membership rates. Southern states such as South Carolina (1.7%), North Carolina (2.8%), Virginia (3.7%), Texas (4.1%), Georgia (4.4%), and Florida (4.5%) all rank in the bottom 10 states for union membership.

To determine the most unionized locations in America, researchers at Construction Coverage, a website that provides construction software and insurance reviews, analyzed data from UnionStats.com and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The researchers ranked states according to total union members as a percentage of total employment. In addition to union membership, the researchers also included statistics on union representation, which is the share of workers whose terms of work are collectively negotiated (whether or not they are union members).

Here is a summary of the data for Georgia:

  • Union membership rate: 4.4%

  • Union representation rate: 5.4%

  • Workers who are members of unions: 200,335

  • Workers who are represented by unions: 243,834

  • Total employment: 4,526,731

For reference, here are the statistics for the entire United States:

  • Union membership rate: 10.1%

  • Union representation rate: 11.3%

  • Workers who are members of unions: 14,280,076

  • Workers who are represented by unions: 15,995,894

  • Total employment: 141,698,497

For complete results on more than 250 metros and all 50 states, see The Most Unionized Cities in America on Construction Coverage.