Best Union Jobs in America

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Are you interested in joining a union? What are some of the best union jobs you can work at? Workers who belong to a labor union typically have higher pay and better benefits and retirement packages than non-union workers.

BenefitsPlus reports that union employees make an average of 30 percent more than non-union workers, 92 percent of union workers have job-related health coverage compared to 68 percent of non-union workers, and union employees are more likely to have guaranteed pensions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that union members had median weekly earnings of $1,041 in 2017, while those who did not belong to a union had median weekly earnings of $829.

While union membership has dropped overall from its peak in the 1980s, The Atlantic reports that white-collar union membership in professional and technical occupations is growing. Education, training, and library jobs are occupations with a high rate (33.5 percent) of union membership. By comparison, Construction has 14 percent of employed workers belonging to a union, down from 18 percent in 1995.

Who Belongs to a Union?

There are union members in almost every employment sector 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 (34.4 percent)
  • Protective services occupations (corrections officers, firefighters, police, and fire inspectors) have the highest percentage (34.7 percent) of employees who are members of a union.
  • The private sector is comprised of only 6.5 percent union members.

Top 8 Industries for Union Jobs

Some industries are traditionally more union-based than others, with the union membership rate of public sector workers (34.4 percent) being five times higher than that of private sector workers (6.5 percent). 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: 26.6 percent, State: 30.3 percent, Local 40.1 percent
Types of Jobs: In 2017, 7.2 million employees in the Public sector belonged to a union, compared with 7.6 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 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: 23 percent
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 installers and repairers, electrical engineers, electrical power-line installers and repairers, first-line supervisors/managers, and meter readers.

3. Transportation

Members of unions: 17.3 percent
Types of Jobs: The Transportation and Warehousing sector include the transportation of passengers and cargo, warehousing and storage for goods, scenic and sightseeing transportation, and support activities. Jobs in this sector include airline pilots, copilots and flight engineers, school bus drivers, railroad conductors and yardmasters, sailors and marine oilers, and heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers.

4. Telecommunications

Members of unions: 16.1 percent
Types of Jobs: Telecommunications 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 a combination of technologies. Occupations in the telecommunications industry include customer service representatives, electronics engineers, first-line supervisors of office and administrative support workers, equipment installers and repairers, and line installers and repairers.

5. Construction

Members of unions: 14.0 percent
Types of Jobs: The Construction sector comprises establishments primarily engaged in the construction of buildings or engineering projects. The top construction jobs include carpenters, construction laborers, construction managers, electricians, operating engineers, and other construction equipment operators.

6. Educational Services

Members of unions: 11.4 percent
Types of Jobs: The Educational Services sector 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 assistants.

7. Motion Pictures and Sound Recording

Members of unions: 11.4 percent
Types of Jobs: The Motion Pictures and Sound Recording sector includes establishments involved in the production and distribution of motion pictures and sound recordings. Professions in this sector include actors, audio and video equipment technicians, motion picture projectionists, and producers and directors.

8. Manufacturing

Members of unions: 9.1 percent
Types of Jobs: The Manufacturing sector includes plants, factories, or mills that are engaged in the mechanical, physical, or chemical transformation of materials into new products. Occupations in this sector include assembly workers, production workers, inspectors, testers, sorters, samplers and weighers, machinists, and purchasing agents.

How to Find a Union Job

If you’re just starting out 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. 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.

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.

Other union job search options include utilizing job boards, labor union and labor council websites, and the CareerOneStop Apprenticeship Finder Tool. Trade school programs can provide the training necessary for some union positions.

Location makes a difference when you’re looking to work for a union. New York has the highest union membership rate (23.8 percent), followed by Hawaii (22.9 percent), while South Carolina has the lowest (2.6 percent). The Mercury News reports that California is responsible for 59 percent of the union jobs created since 2010.