Despite Nationwide Decline in Labor Union Membership, New York City and State Remain Top Union Strongholds

Media contact:  Tanya Domi,, 212-817-7283, 917-733-7838 (cell)

Despite Nationwide Decline in Labor Union Membership, New York City and State Remain Top Union Strongholds

NYC black workers have the highest unionization rates and enjoy an advantage throughout the nation

NEW YORK, Sept. 3, 2015 – Defying the national trend of diminishing labor union membership in most parts of the United States, the New York City union rate has grown more than 16 percent since 2012. Fully 25 percent of its residents are union members, which is double the national average, according to a study conducted by scholars at the Murphy Institute and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

In the private sector, nearly 18 percent of New York City residents are union members, nearly triple the national rate of six percent.  

The State of the Unions 2015: A Profile of Organized Labor in New York City, New York State and the United States by Ruth Milkman and Stephanie Luce, includes a special spotlight on black workers in New York City and the nation.  It is the sixth edition of this annual report.

“Despite persistently high unemployment rates and disproportionate concentration in low-wage work, blacks have higher unionization rates than any other racial/ethnic group, nationally and in New York,” said Ruth Milkman.

In New York City, the differential in unionization rates between blacks and other workers is especially significant:  In 2014-15, 39.2 percent of all black workers who live in the five boroughs were union members, almost twice the rate for non-black workers (21.1 percent).  Nationally, 13.2 percent of black workers were unionized in 2014-15, compared to 11.1 percent of non-black workers.

The report also shows that the high unionization rate among black workers in New York City pays off directly in higher earnings, suggesting that black workers would benefit disproportionately from an increase in unionization elsewhere in the U.S.

Figure B1. Unionization Rates, Black and Non-Black Workers, by Sector, New York City, New York State, and the United States, 2014-15.

Unionization Rates

Additional report findings include:

‚óŹ    Unionized black workers in NYC had median hourly earnings of $22.00 in 2014-15, compared to only $16.03 for non-union black workers.  Although the City’s non-black workers earned more across the board – a median of $24.04 for union members and $20.10 for non-union workers, the union premium was higher for black workers.

For further details, see the full report here.

**Media should contact Tanya Domi,, 212-817-7283 for schedule interviews requests for Professors Milkman and Luce. Contact Ruth Milkman directly at and Stephanie Luce at

About the Graduate Center
The Graduate Center (GC) is the principal doctorate-granting institution of the City University of New York. Offering more than 30 doctoral degrees and fostering globally significant research in a wide variety of centers and institutes, the GC affords rigorous academic training in the humanities, sciences, and social sciences. It is home to a core faculty of approximately 140 teachers and mentors, along with 1700 faculty from across the CUNY colleges anDespite Nationwide Decline in Labor Union Membership, New York City and State Remain Top Union Strongholdsd New York City’s cultural, academic and scientific institutions. Through its public programs, the Graduate Center enhances the City’s intellectual and cultural life.

Submitted on: SEP 3, 2015

Category: Press Room | Sociology