Union membership plunges in Indiana, rebounds in Illinois

indiana labor

Union membership fell in Indiana last year, the first annual decline in the state since 2012.


The number of dues-paying union members totaled 266,000 statewide, the lowest number since 2013 and down 12.5 percent from 304,000 members the previous year, according to newly released Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Union workers made up 8.9 percent of the workforce in Indiana in 2017, down from 10.4 percent the previous year.

It’s the lowest percentage of unionized workers in Indiana since at least 2006, according to BLS data, and may be the lowest all time in the Hoosier state since unionization has been declining nationally since its peak in the 1950s.

Union workers tend to get paid better. The bureau estimates that last year nonunion workers only made $0.80 to the dollar of their unionized counterparts — or median earnings of $829 a week versus $1,041 a week for unionized workers.

In 2017, unions represented about 289,000 workers in Indiana, including those who did not pay dues, down from 335,000 workers represented by unions the previous year. The percentage of workers represented by unions in Indiana, including non-members, shrunk to 9.7 percent last year, down from 11.4 percent in 2016.


Union membership in neighboring Illinois grew to 827,000 in 2017, up from 812,000 the previous year. About 15 percent of Illinois workers are unionized up from 14.5 percent the previous year. The percentage of the workforce represented by unions was 15.8 percent in 2017, up from 15.3 percent the previous year.

Illinois ranked third nationally in the number of union members, after only California and New York.


Nationally, the number of union workers grew by 262,000 to 14.8 million last year, but the percentage of dues-paying, union-represented workers stayed steady at 10.7 percent last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s down from a 20.1 union membership rate nationwide in 1983.


Photo Credit: United Steelworkers members march to ArcelorMittal’s U.S. headquarters in Burns Harbor in 2015. Union membership declined in Indiana last year.