The Murphy Institute Releases a Profile of New York Unions In 2015


Each Labor Day, the Murphy Institute issues a report on The State of the Unions, analyzing data on union membership in New York City and State, as well as the nation.  As our 2015 report shows, organized labor remains strong in New York City and State relative to the United States as a whole.  In fact, New York's unions have enjoyed a modest rebound in the last two years, reversing a longstanding pattern of steady erosion. 

Fully one-fourth (25.0 percent) of all wage and salary workers residing in New York City's five boroughs were union members in 2014-15, up from 21.5 percent in 2012 and 23.7 percent in 2013. The unionized share of the workforce was only slightly lower in New York State (24.8 percent) than in the city; indeed, New York ranks first in union density among the fifty states, with a unionization rate more than double the U.S. average of 11.1 percent in 2014-15.  In absolute terms, New York State had more union members – over 2 million – than any state except California, which has a far larger population. In 2014-15, there were about 877,000 union members in the five boroughs of New York City, representing 43.6 percent of all union members in the state.

In recent years, losses in U.S. union membership have been disproportionately concentrated in the private sector, a trend that accelerated after 2007 as the Great Recession unfolded. By contrast, in the public sector, union density has been relatively stable.  In a striking deviation from this pattern, private-sector density has increased modestly in New York City and State over the past two years, reflecting the gradual recovery of employment in unionized industries hard hit by the recession, like construction and hotels. Meanwhile, public sector density declined slightly in the City and rose slightly over the previous year in the State.  

More than half (54.2 percent) of all unionized workers in the nation are in three industry groups: educational services, health care and social assistance, and pubic administration.  In New York City and State, those three industry groups account for an even greater proportion of all unionized workers (54.7 percent and 58.7 percent, respectively). All three groups are comprised predominantly of public sector jobs (although the health care component of "health care and social assistance" includes many in the private sector), and all three include relatively large numbers of college-educated workers.  Manufacturing accounts for a far smaller share of union membership in New York than nationally, especially in the City, while finance, insurance and real estate, as well as professional and business services, are a larger share of the total than is the case elsewhere in the nation. 

Our report also includes a spotlight on Black workers, who are more likely to be union members than any other ethnic or racial group.  Nearly two out of every five Black workers in New York City are union members, compared to just over one out of every five non-Black workers.  And Black immigrant workers have even higher unionization rates than their U.S.-born counterparts.  The Black/non-Black union differential is especially large in New York City and State.  In the City, the Black unionization rate is 186% of the non-Black rate, and in the State it is 159%; while it is a much more modest 121% in the nation. This differential, along with the fact that the City and State's unionization rates are far above the national average, means that a disproportionately large proportion of New York's Black workers enjoy the advantages associated with unionism. 

Blacks' overrepresentation in public sector jobs helps explain their higher unionization rate, since the public sector is far more unionized than the private sector.  But the Black private-sector unionization rate is nearly double the non-Black rate in New York City and State, whereas the racial gap is much smaller in the nation as a whole.

For the full report, visit the Murphy Institute website


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