Unions have been around since the 1800s, but throughout the years, union membership has slowly declined. Just 10.3% of American workers were union members in 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. When data on union membership was first collected in 1983, that number was at 20.1%.
How do North Carolina and South Carolina compare to the rest of the U.S. when it comes to union participation?
Do the Carolinas have the lowest union participation rates in the country?
Yes, the Carolinas have the lowest union participation rates in the country.
WHAT WE FOUND
North Carolina and South Carolina are at the bottom of the list when it comes to union participation, the study found. A mere 2.6% of North Carolina workers are union members, while South Carolina's number is even lower at 1.7%.
"Part of the reason that we have such low union density is our laws that are stacked against workers organizing and forming unions," McMillan said.
Some of these laws make it difficult for unions to negotiate for members, according to McMillan.
"We are one of just a few states that makes it completely illegal for city, county and state workers to collectively bargain a contract," McMillan said. "So they can join a union, but they cant collectively negotiate their terms of employment, their wages, and can't have a contract."
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a slight uptick in workers trying to unionize. Some of the highest-profile cases involved Amazon and Starbucks workers pushing to unionize. Fast food workers staged protests across the country for better wages and working conditions, including here in North Carolina.
"With the pandemic, workers just got fed up being called essential but being expendable," McMillian said.
There is a national push for federal labor laws that would give unions more of a say.
"The pro act would really put stiff penalties for companies that try to stop people from unionizing," said McMillan.
VERIFY is dedicated to helping the public distinguish between true and false information. The VERIFY team, with help from questions submitted by the audience, tracks the spread of stories or claims that need clarification or correction. Have something you want VERIFIED? Text us at 704-329-3600 or visit VERIFY.
Wake Up Charlotte To Go is a daily news and weather podcast you can listen to so you can start your day with the team at Wake Up Charlotte.
SUBSCRIBE: Apple Podcasts || Spotify || Stitcher || TuneIn || Google Podcasts
All of WCNC Charlotte's podcasts are free and available for both streaming and download. You can listen now on Android, iPhone, Amazon, and other internet-connected devices. Join us from North Carolina, South Carolina, or on the go anywhere.