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Strong economy boosts Oklahoma's union membership

While the number of workers represented by unions declined across the nation, union membership grew slightly in Oklahoma last year.
by Brianna Bailey Published: February 27, 2013
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Union membership grew slightly in Oklahoma last year, despite a national decline in organized labor, according to a new report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In 2012, about 115,000 workers in Oklahoma reported belonging to a union, about 7.5 percent of the workforce, compared with 94,000 workers, or 6.4 percent in 2011, according to the report.

Nationally, 11.3 percent of workers were union members in 2012, down from 11.8 percent in 2011.

An additional 25,000 workers in the state reported they were represented by a union while not being a member of the union. Workers represented by unions accounted for 9.1 percent of Oklahoma's workforce in 2012, compared to 12.5 percent nationally.

Union membership in Oklahoma has trailed several percentage points behind the national average since 1989, when comparable data became available, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

However, Oklahoma was one of 15 states where union membership grew in 2012, going against the national trend of shrinking organized labor, said Cheryl Abbot, regional economist for the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The relative strength of Oklahoma's economy might be one reason for increased union membership in the state, she said.

“Oklahoma is doing better than the country as a whole in terms of job growth, and because of that, I'm assuming as industry sectors grew, union membership grew as well,” Abbot said.

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not track union membership by industry on a state-by-state level, occupational data from the federal government shows increases in manufacturing and trade, transportation and utilities jobs in Oklahoma over the past year.

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by Brianna Bailey
Business Writer
Brianna Bailey has lived in Idaho, Germany and Southern California, but Oklahoma is her adopted home. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the Univerisity of Oklahoma and has worked at several newspapers in Oklahoma and Southern...
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Oklahoma is doing better than the country as a whole in terms of job growth, and because of that, I'm assuming as industry sectors grew, union membership grew as well.”

Cheryl Abbot,
Regional economist for the Bureau of Labor Statistics

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