These Five Industries Have a High Proportion of Union Membership

  • Government
  • Utilities
  • Transportation
  • Telecommunications
  • Education

A person considering a career in business, economics, finance, human relations, industrial relations, history, law, or a related field may want to be aware of these five industries with a strong union workforce. This knowledge is also important for an employee or a future business owner or manager to have. Awareness of which industries are highly unionized gives a person perspective on what to expect with labor relations and how labor unions will play a role.

Related Resource: 20 Best Affordable Public Universities with an Online Masters Human Resource Management

1. Government

Many people are surprised to learn that government is the biggest economic sector for labor union membership. In order to become a unionized local, state, or federal employee, many workers have to take a civil service exam as a part of their application. Local government workers have the highest rate of union membership, which is 40.3 percent. State government workers have a 28.6 percent union membership rate, and 26.4 percent of federal government workers belong to a union. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and Service Employees International Union are the two largest unions for government workers.

2. Utilities

The utilities sector of the economy has the second-highest rate of union membership, coming in at 20.1 percent. The unionized utility workers include people who service or work in electrical power, natural gas, water, sewer, and steam supply systems. Some of the most common occupations in the utilities sector that are unionized include meter readers, electrical engineers, plumbers, and electrical line installers. Utilities include both private and public facilities, such as city water treatment plants and private electrical generation and distribution companies. Electrical workers may be part of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union.

3. Transportation

About 16.7 percent of workers in the transportation industry are union members. Transportation includes warehouse workers, loaders, drivers, and dispatchers. Some of the occupations in the transportation sector of the economy that are usually unionized include airline pilots, commercial truck drivers, city bus drivers, coach bus drivers, school bus drivers, railroad conductors, and flight engineers. There are both public sector and private sector jobs within the transportation industry that are unionized.

4. Telecommunications

According to The Balance Careers, 15.4 percent of telecommunications workers are in a labor union. The telecommunications industry involves facilities, equipment, and systems for voice, data, text, sound, and video communications. Many telecommunications firms operate facilities with technology for handling multiple types of communications needs. Some of the unionized occupations within the telecommunications industry include cable line installers and repair technicians, customer service representatives, electronics engineers, and equipment installation and repair technicians.

5. Education

Around 13.1 percent of workers in the education sector of the American economy are members of a labor union. Preschool, kindergarten, elementary, secondary, and university teachers and instructors are often members of the National Education Association or the American Federation of Teachers. Educational support workers, teacher’s aides, cafeteria workers, school nurses, school counselors, secretaries, and intervention specialists may also be part of the National Education Association. School psychologists, school resource officers, and college teaching assistants may also be unionized. The American Federation of teachers advocates both for members and for the public, and it’s famous for the Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka.

Each of these five industries has a strong presence of union membership. Although not as many workers are unionized as 50 or more years ago, unions still play a key role in social justice and workers’ rights. Knowledge of these five industries with a strong union workforce helps a person learn more about labor unions in the United States.