Changing economic conditions and favorable rule-making in Washington helped U.S. union membership increase to 14.8 million workers last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Organized labor gained 49,000 new members in 2011, as the private sector added 110,000 union members while government agencies lost 61,000 union jobs. Still, public-sector workers have a union membership rate of 37%, more than five times that of the private-sector (6.9%).
More than half of America’s union members live in just seven states: Pennsylvania, California, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Ohio. In Pennsylvania, 15.9% of workers belong to a union.
Unions are weakest in the South, where seven states have membership rates below 5%.