Nearly 1 in 5 Union Members Are School Workers

Published August 1, 2001

Education industry more heavily unionized than manufacturing or construction

Workers in elementary and secondary schools in 2000 accounted for the largest share of union members of any sector in the U.S. economy–over 19 percent–according to Heritage Foundation calculations from the Census Bureau’s March 2000 Current Population Survey.

Although the transportation and public utilities sector frequently is regarded as the most heavily unionized, only 24 percent of its workers are union members. The most heavily unionized sector is K-12 schools, where 42 percent of workers carry union cards.

By comparison, just 18 percent of workers in the construction industry are union members, less than 15 percent in manufacturing, and only 9 percent of all private wage and salary workers.

The numbers on teacher union membership are even more startling when viewed by occupation: 67 percent of special education teachers are union members, 59 percent of secondary school teachers, and over 46 percent of elementary school teachers. This group of teachers accounts for over 12 percent of all union members–the highest for any single occupation.

Workers in service occupations make up 13 percent of all union members; workers in all professional specialty occupations account for 19 percent; operators, fabricators, and laborers make up 20 percent; and precision production, craft, and repair occupations account for 22 percent.

Source: “Teachers That Are Union Members: The Numbers Are Startling,” by Heritage Foundation education analysts, May 18, 2001.