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Missouri unions add 46,000 members, putting total at a 15-year high

Missouri unions add 46,000 members, putting total at a 15-year high

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Rich Pickering, at right, sports a handmade sign as hundreds of workers rally against Proposition A at the Laborers Local 42 union hall Saturday, June 23, 2018. Many who attended the rally later canvassed area neighborhoods to educate voters on the right to work legislation and the upcoming veto referendum, which will take place on August 7. Photo by Ryan Michalesko,

The defeat of a right-to-work law in 2018 seems to have given Missouri's unions a boost. Their membership grew by 46,000 last year, bucking a downward national trend.

The increase boosted the state's union membership to 297,000 people, the highest number since 2004. Union members now make up 11.1% of the state's workforce, the highest percentage since 2008.

Nationally, union membership fell by 170,000 last year and is now 10.3% of all workers, down from 10.5% in 2018. Last year was the first time since 2003 that Missouri had a higher unionization rate than the U.S. as a whole.

In addition to the 297,000 union members in the state, 36,000 Missourians are represented by unions but are not members. A law that voters rejected in 2018 would have allowed those non-members to opt out of paying union dues.

In Illinois, union membership fell by 15,000 last year, reducing the unionization rate from 13.8% to 13.6%.

Nationally, just 6.2% of private-sector workers were union members, compared with 33.6% in the public sector. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the average union member earned $1,095 a week last year, compared with $892 for non-union workers.

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