Fast food workers walked off the job in 2016 to demand $15 an hour and a union. The food service industry has among the lowest rates of union membership.
Fast food workers walked off the job in 2016 to demand $15 an hour and a union. The food service industry has among the lowest rates of union membership. David McNew/getty

New numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show an unsurprising national trend: The percent of workers who are union members didn't change from 2016 to 2017. But here in Washington State, that percentage grew slightly.

The national trends are well-documented: Over the last 50 years, the number of private sector workers who belong to unions has tanked. Right-to-work laws have multiplied and workers are making less. And new research indicates the decimation of unions may also be weakening Democrats' chances of winning elections.

Nationally, 10.7 percent of workers were union members in 2017, the same percentage as in 2016, according to the BLS. In total, 14.8 million workers belonged to unions. (Another 1.6 million workers reported no union affiliation in 2017 but their jobs are covered by a union contract.) That's compared to 17.1 million workers, or 20.1 percent, in 1983. While roughly half of those union members work in the private sector and half in the public sector, the rate of union membership is much higher among public sector workers (34.4 percent compared to 6.5 percent).

Here in Washington State, the portion of workers who are union members grew slightly. In total, 18.8 percent of Washington workers are union members, up 1.4 percent between 2016 and 2017.

Support The Stranger

Washington State Labor Council President Jeff Johnson said in a post on the council's website that the state numbers "demonstrate that, unless they are hindered by outdated or hostile labor laws, people will stand together and form unions."

Washington's union membership rate is the third highest in the country, behind New York and Hawaii. But it still represents fewer than a million workers. In 2017, 584,000 Washington workers were union members.

See the full BLS data here.