Slight growth in percentage of union workers, but S.C. remains third lowest

Staff Report
Published Feb. 3, 2014

Union membership in South Carolina increased to 69,000 in 2013 from 58,000 the previous year, a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows. Only 3.7% of workers in South Carolina belong to unions, and that percentage is the third-lowest nationwide.

South Carolina’s workforce grew to 1.86 million people in 2013, up from 1.77 million in 2012, the report shows.

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The report shows that the percentage of union members in South Carolina’s work force ranks the stateas the third-lowest nationally, alongside Mississippi and behind only North Carolina at 3% and Arkansas at 3.5%. The percentage of union-represented workers in the state increased to 4.7%, or 86,000, in 2013, from 4.6%, or 82,000 in 2012.

“If the companies didn’t fight it so much, there would be a lot more,” said Erin McKee, president of the AFL-CIO in South Carolina. “There are a lot of people who want to organize. People are afraid because of what happens when they try to organize. I’m glad we’ve had some successes this year.”

Those successes includes a vote by workers at Prince George Health Care Center in Georgetown to join the United Steelworkers Union and membership gains in the construction industry, McKee said.

She said there are about 14,000 AFL-CIO members in South Carolina.

“I think people are starting to stand up for themselves,” McKee said. “It’s hard to live on a minimum wage of $7.25. A gallon of milk and a loaf of bread is about an hour’s pay. We are having a rough time.”

Nationally, the percentage of wage and salary workers who were members of unions held at 11.3%, or 14.5 million, in 2013. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has been reported that rate since 1983, when membership was 20.1%, or 17.7 million union members.

The 10 states with the lowest percentages of union members in its workforce:

  • North Carolina 3%
  • Arkansas 3.5%
  • South Carolina 3.7%
  • Mississippi 3.7%
  • Utah 3.9%
  • Louisiana 4.3%
  • Idaho 4.7%
  • Texas 4.8%
  • South Dakota 4.8%
  • Arizona 5%
  • Virginia 5%
  • Georgia 5.3%

Highlights from the 2013 national data:

  • The 35.3% public sector rate was more than five times higher than the 6.7% private sector rate.
  • Workers in education, training and library occupations had the highest rate of unionization, at 35.3% for each occupation group.
  • Among race and ethnicity groups, black workers had a higher union membership rate in 2013, at 13.6%, than workers who were white 11%, Asian 9.4% or Hispanic 9.4%.
  • At 11.9%, men had a higher union membership rate than women, at 10.5%.
  • Among states, New York continues to have the highest membership rate at 24.4%.
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