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15,000 New Union Members Bolster Arkansas Labor, National Rate Remains Steady

A greater share of Arkansans opted to join a union in 2017 than the year before with membership rates ticking up from 3.9 to 5.1 percent of the workforce. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 62,000 Arkansans were represented in the workplace through a union; another 74,000 non-union employees work under contracts negotiated by unions.

Take a listen to the interview above about the state of organized labor in Arkansas with the AFL-CIO’s Jessica Akers Hughes.

That’s good news for the state’s unions, particularly when the national union membership rate remained flat at 10.7 percent. Arkansas’s union density jumped from 48th lowest in the nation to 41st. 25 states saw gains in union density. New York continued to have the highest rate at 23.8 percent while South Carolina maintained its lowest in the nation ranking with 2.6 percent of its workforce represented collectively.

KUAR partner Talk Business and Politics notes it's the highest level of union membership in Arkansas since 2008. The TB&P article also has the takeaway from James Nickels, executor director of Arkansas chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The BLS report notes union participation is five-times higher in the public sector than private. Take a dive into the numbers.

Arkansas had the highest number and percentage of union workers in the state in 2008, when there were 68,000 or 5.9% of the state’s employed workforce who were affiliated with one of the state’s various trade shops. The lowest level of union membership in Arkansas occurred in 2012 when there were only 37,000, or 3.2% of the state’s employed workers tied to organized labor.

Jacob Kauffman is a former news anchor and reporter for KUAR.
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