The Carolinas once again had the nation's lowest percentage of workers represented by unions, new figures show, even as a key labor battle is playing out at Boeing Co.'s campus in North Charleston.
South Carolina and North Carolina tied with union membership at just 2.7 percent of the workforce in 2018, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. The two states traditionally have swapped spots at the bottom of the annual ranking.
Nationally, 10.5 percent of workers were members of a labor union in 2018 — down 0.2 percent from the previous year. It's the lowest percentage since the bureau started tracking the figures in 1983.
The drop continues a decades-long decline for organized labor as right-to-work laws, globalization, economic uncertainty and other trends have eroded unions' influence.
While South Carolina has long been seen as an anti-union stronghold, a small group of flight-line workers at Boeing's 787 Dreamliner plant last year voted for representation by the International Association of Machinists.
Boeing is appealing a National Labor Relations Board decision that let the vote take place and the aerospace firm has yet to begin negotiations with the union. The labor board has not ruled on Boeing's appeal.
Despite the overall drop in union membership, a recent Gallup poll showed 62 percent of Americans have a favorable view of organized labor — the highest ranking in 15 years.
Additionally, a study by the Economic Policy Group — a labor-friendly think tank — showed that as union membership declines, so do wages. That is reflected in the bureau's statistics, which show union members earn an average of $200 more per week than their non-union counterparts.
All told, 14.7 million people in the U.S. were union members in 2018, with public-sector workers like teachers and government employees making up nearly half that figure.
Hawaii and New York had the highest rate of union membership at 23.1 percent and 22.3 percent, respectively.