Photo by Justin Cook
United Food and Commercial Workers organizers at a Robeson County chicken processing plant
Remember when North Carolina held the dubious distinction of being the least unionized state in the nation? Well, those days are over, as new data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that that mantle has fallen to our neighbor to the south, South Carolina.
In South Carolina, only 2.1 percent of all employed people are members of a union,
and only 2.9 percent of all workers are represented by a union. In North Carolina, those proportions are 3 percent and 4.1 percent, respectively, making us the second least-unionized state in the country.
The national average is 11.1 percent, and North Carolina is one of 30 states that come in below that average, as well as one of only five with union membership rates below 5 percent (the others are Utah, Georgia and Texas).
So while we’re obviously nowhere near the most unionized state in the United States—that's New York, where 24.7 percent of all workers are members of a union and 26 percent of workers are represented by a union—there’s some progress being made in the South, and polls
show that public opinion surrounding labor unions is changing.
Here’s MaryBe McMillan, secretary-treasurer for the North Carolina AFL-CIO
, the largest association of unions and union councils in the state:
“The increase in union membership in a majority of southern states, including North Carolina, confirms what polls have shown time and again: most workers support unions. Unfortunately, with our weak labor laws and lax penalties for companies who violate workers' rights, too few working people get the chance to join a union, and as a result, we've seen wages stagnate and inequality increase.
History shows that union membership directly correlates with the middle-class' share of income. That's why we will continue to work with our community partners and religious leaders to push for laws to protect workers' right to organize and collectively bargain.”
Read more here
about the feds' findings.