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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Oklahoma's unemployment rate has tracked several percentage points below the national level, according to date from the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. Unemployment was at 5.1 percent in Oklahoma for December, compared to 7.8 percent nationally, according to the commission's most recent numbers.

Ron Cobb, president of the Oklahoma City-based Teamsters Local 886, said he has noticed a slight increase in membership over the past year.

“I think it's just due to the economy being better overall,” Cobb said.

The local gained between 60 and 100 members over the past year, he said.

“There is no dramatic jump in our numbers, but it's something that is holding its own,” Cobb said.

Cobb's local has about 2,100 members. Combined with locals in Tulsa and Muskogee, Teamsters has about 4,000 members in the state, Cobb said.

AFL-CIO Oklahoma President Jim Curry said construction jobs from several energy-related projects in the state, including wind farms and the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline from Cushing to the Gulf of Mexico, have increased the demand for skilled union jobs in the state.

The AFL-CIO has about 100,000 members in Oklahoma. The union has seen a slight increase in membership in the state over the past year, Curry said, although no firm data was immediately available.

“We are a percentage of employment in the state, and when that goes up, our numbers go up, too,” Curry said.

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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