Best Union Jobs in America

Different types of union workers
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If you are considering work in a unionized sector, you might be wondering what some of the best union jobs are. It makes sense to consider union jobs, since workers who belong to a labor union typically have higher pay and receive better benefits and retirement packages than non-union workers hired for similar jobs.

Union members often have better working conditions and protections against arbitrary firing and worker harassment.

What is a Labor Union?

What's a labor union? A labor union, also known as a trade union, is an organized group of workers who join together to bargain with employers regarding conditions that impact their employment, including salary, benefits, and working conditions.

Benefits of Belonging to a Union

BenefitsPlus reports that union employees make an average of 30% more than non-union workers, that 92% of union workers have job-related health coverage compared to 68% of non-union workers, and that union employees are more likely to have guaranteed pensions.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that union members had median weekly earnings of $1,051 in 2018, while those who did not belong to a union earned $860 or only 82% of the wages garnered by union members.

Who Belongs to a Union?

In almost every employment sector there are union members working at many different types of jobs, including blue-collar skilled trades and factory workers, civil service administrative and management employees, and professionals working in higher education, healthcare, and government.

  • The public sector has the highest percentage of union workers (33.9%).
  • Protective services occupations (corrections officers, firefighters, police, and fire inspectors) have the highest percentage (33.9%) of employees who are members of a union.
  • The private sector is composed of only 6.4% union members.
  • Men have higher a union membership rate than women – 11.1% versus 9.8%.
  • Black workers (12.5%) are more likely to be union members than White (10.4%), Asian (8.4%), or Latino workers (9.1%).
  • The overall rate of union membership in 2018 was 10.5%, down by 0.2% from 2017.

Top 8 Industries for Union Jobs

Some industries are traditionally more union-based than others, with the union membership rate of public sector workers (33.9%) being five times higher than that of private sector workers (6.4%).

Depending on the occupation, there are other industries that have a high number of well-paid union jobs. Not all jobs listed for each industry are union positions. Many industries have a combination of union and non-union workers, depending on the employer, occupation, and collective bargaining agreements.

Here are some of the jobs available in the industries with the most union workers.

1. Public Sector

Member of Unions: Federal: 26.4%, State: 28.6%, Local 40.3%

Types of Jobs: In 2018, 7.167 million employees in the public sector belonged to a union, compared with 7.578 million workers in the private sector. The union membership rate was highest in local government, where there are many workers in unionized occupations, such as teachers, police officers, and firefighters. 

The occupations in the public sector are as varied as in the private sector. The main difference is that you’re working for the government instead of a private employer, and you may need to take a civil service exam to apply. You’ll be able to apply online for many government jobs.

2. Utilities

Members of Unions: 20.1%

Types of Jobs: The utilities sector includes organizations engaged in the provision of utility services, including electric power, natural gas, steam supply, water supply, and sewage removal. The top jobs in this sector include control and valve installer and repairer, electrical engineer, electrical powerline installer and repairer, first-line supervisor/manager, and meter reader.

3. Transportation

Members of Unions: 16.7%

Types of Jobs: The transportation and warehousing sector includes the transportation of passengers and cargo, warehousing and storage for goods, scenic and sightseeing transportation, and support activities. Jobs in this sector include airline pilot, copilot and flight engineer, school bus driver, railroad conductor and yardmaster, sailor and marine oiler, and heavy and tractor-trailer truck driver.

4. Telecommunications

Members of Unions: 15.4%

Types of Jobs: The telecommunications industry provides access to and operates facilities for the transmission of voice, data, text, sound, and video. Transmission facilities may be based on a single technology or on a combination. Occupations in the telecommunications industry include customer service representative, electronics engineer, first-line supervisor of office and administrative support workers, equipment installer and repairer, and line installer and repairer.

5. Educational Services

Members of Unions: 13.1%

Types of Jobs: The educational services industry includes schools, colleges, universities, and training centers that provide instruction and training in a wide variety of subjects. The top occupations in the education sector include elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers and administrators, and teacher assistant.

6. Construction

Members of Unions: 12.8%

Types of Jobs: The construction industry comprises establishments primarily engaged in the construction of buildings or engineering projects. The top construction jobs include carpenter, construction laborer, construction manager, electrician, operating engineer, and other construction equipment operators.

7. Motion Pictures and Sound Recording

Members of Unions: 12.5%

Types of Jobs: The motion pictures and sound recording industry includes establishments involved in the production and distribution of motion pictures and sound recordings. Professions in this sector include actor, audio and video equipment technician, motion picture projectionist, producer and director.

8. Manufacturing

Members of Unions: 9.0%

Types of Jobs: The manufacturing industry includes plants, factories, or mills engaged in the mechanical, physical, or chemical transformation of materials into new products. Occupations in this sector include assembly worker, production worker, inspector, tester, sorter, sampler and weigher, machinist, and purchasing agent.

Best Locations for Union Jobs

Location makes a difference when you’re looking to work for a union. Hawaii has the highest union membership rate (23.1%), followed by New York (22.3%), while North Carolina and South Carolina have the lowest (2.7%).

Tips for Finding a Union Job

Apprenticeship Programs: If you’re just starting your career or looking for a change, a union apprenticeship program can provide you with the skills you need to get started in the construction or manufacturing industries. Learn all about apprenticeships at apprenticeships.gov.

Administrative/Professional Jobs: If you’re interested in administration or professional positions, civil services jobs are available at every level of federal, state, and local government. USAJobs lists federal employment opportunities. Check your state and local government websites for information on job openings and civil service exams in your location.

Union and Socially-Allied Jobs: The Union Jobs Clearinghouse lists open union and socially-allied job openings, as well as job postings from community organizations. Job seekers can review labor union staff positions, education and trades jobs, national job openings, and positions listed by state. The site also promotes available jobs on Facebook and Twitter. Follow them to get the latest postings.

More Job Options: Other union job search options include using job boards, labor union and labor council websites, the CareerOneStop, and the Apprentice FinderTrade school programs can provide the training necessary for some union positions.

Article Sources

  1. UnionPlus. "What is a Union?" Accessed Nov. 13, 2019.

  2. UnionPlus. "Benefits of Union Membership," Accessed Nov. 13, 2019.

  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Union Members Summary," Accessed Nov. 13, 2019.

  4. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Union Affiliation of Employed Wage and Salary Workers by Occupation and Industry," Accessed Nov. 13, 2019.

  5. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Union Affiliation of Employed Wage and Salary Workers by State," Accessed Nov. 13, 2019.