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Union membership rate among Utah workers is 5th lowest nationally

(Rick Egan | Tribune file phto) Construction workers pause for a moment of silence, as they gather at the site of the new terminal at the Salt Lake International Airport, for a 9-11 remembrance event on Sept. 11, 2019.

Utahns don’t exactly look for the union label when choosing their jobs. The Beehive State now has the fifth lowest union membership in the nation.

Only 4.4% of Utah workers — 62,000 out of 1.4 million, or one of every 25 — belong to a union, according to 2019 data released Jan. 22 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That is less than half the national average of 10.3%.

The only states with lower rates than Utah were South Carolina at 2.2%, North Carolina at 2.3% and Texas and Virginia at 4.0%.

Hawaii had the highest union membership rate at 23.5%, followed by New York at 21%.

[Read more: Average wage in Salt Lake for skilled trades now $20 an hour]

Utah is one of 26 “right to work” states, which legislate that payment of union dues or fees cannot be a requirement for employment — which weakens unions.

Because of such laws, 5.9% of Utah workers are represented by unions — even though only 4.4% are dues-paying members, according to the new statistics.

The national union membership rate of 10.3% was down from 10.5% in 2018. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1%.

The new data report that the weekly earnings of nonunion workers is only 81% of the wages of union workers: $892 compared to $1,095.

Other highlights from the 2019 data include:

• The union membership rate nationally for government workers (33.6%) continued to be more than five times higher than the rate of private-sector workers (6.2%).

• Within the public sector nationally, the union membership rate was highest in local government (39.4%), which employs many workers in heavily unionized occupations, such as police officers, firefighters, and teachers.

• Private-sector industries with high unionization rates included utilities (23.4%), transportation and warehousing (16.1%) and telecommunications (14.1%).

• Low unionization rates occurred in finance (1.1%), insurance (1.4%), professional and technical services (1.4%), and food services and drinking places (1.4%).

• Men continued to have a higher union membership rate nationally (10.8%) than women (9.7%).

• Black workers continued to have a higher union membership rate nationally in 2019 (11.2%) than workers who were white (10.3%), Asian (8.8%), or Latino (8.9%). However, the rate for black workers declined by 1.3 percentage points over the year, while the rates for other race and ethnicity groups changed little.

• Union membership is highest among workers ages 45-64. In 2019, 12.6% of workers ages 45 to 54 and 12.7% of those ages 55 to 64 were union members.

• Nationally, the union membership rate for full-time workers (11.2%) was about twice the rate for part-time workers (5.5%).

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