January 24, 2011 | The Business Review | Original Article

Census: NY remains most-unionized state

New York has retained its crown as the most-unionized state in the nation, according to new U.S. Census Bureau data.

The Census Bureau reports that 24.2 percent of New York workers belonged to unions in 2010. It is the highest rate of any state, followed by Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, California and New Jersey.

New York is home to 1.96 million union members, second only to California, which had 471,000 more union members.

Still, union rates dipped in New York, a small part of a nationwide drop in union membership as the recession dragged on. And labor’s power faces big tests this year as state legislators tackle an $11 billion deficit, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo calling for limits on state spending as well as pay freezes for state union members.

In 2009, New York had 60,000 more union members, meaning that 25.2 percent of workers in the state belonged to a union.

Last year also marked the first time the U.S. had more public-sector union members than private-sector union members.

The trend continued in 2010, when 7.6 million public-sector workers—or 36.2 percent of employees—belonged to a union.

There were 7.1 million private-sector union members, which meant that just 6.9 percent of private-sector workers were in a union.

Public-sector workers earned a median weekly wage of $917, according to the Census Bureau. It’s $200 more than the median weekly earnings for their private-sector counterparts.

The South remains the least-unionized section of the country. North Carolina once again had the lowest rate of union members, with 3.2 percent of workers in the state belonging to a union.

The next-lowest rates occurred in Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Virginia.

Texas has 1.9 million more workers as New York, but one-fourth the number of union members.