The State of Illinois’ Unions in 2016

This report is the first in a five-part series on the “State of the Unions” for Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. All five reports are available at this link.

CHICAGO- A new study released today finds that labor unions play a vital role in Illinois’ communities and economy, despite a decline of approximately 84,000 union members over the past decade.

The study, The State of the Unions 2016: A Profile of Unionization in Chicago, in Illinois, and in America [PDF] was conducted by researchers at the Illinois Economic Policy Institute, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Occidental College.

Since 2006, Illinois’ union membership rate has declined by 1.2 percentage points, from 16.4% to 15.2%. As a result, there are nearly 100 fewer labor unions and similar worker organizations in Illinois than there were ten years ago.

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However, there has been good news for Illinois’ labor movement. From 2012 to 2015, the state’s unionization rate increased from 14.6% to 15.2% and total union membership increased by about 47,000 workers.

In Illinois, over half of all public sector workers are unionized, while only one out of every ten private sector workers is a union member. African-American workers, individuals with master’s degrees, and military veterans are among the most-unionized socioeconomic groups in Illinois.
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Any effort to weaken the labor movement in Illinois would disproportionately hurt African American workers, veteran workers, and workers with master’s degrees (including teachers).

The report also finds that labor unions increase worker wages by 10.1% on average in Illinois. The union wage effect is higher for the bottom 10 percent of workers (10.4%) than the richest 10 percent of workers (8.4%).

“Labor unions lift hourly wages, especially for low-income workers,” said Frank Manzo IV, Policy Director of the Illinois Economic Policy Institute. “The economic data shows that unions help to reduce income inequality and foster a strong middle class in Illinois.”

The State of the Unions 2016: A Profile of Unionization in Chicago, in Illinois, and in America can be found here.

Reports from 2015:

  • Last year’s The State of the Unions 2015: A Profile of Unionization in Chicago, in Illinois, and in AmericaIllinois report.
  • From ’15 to $15: The State of the Unions in California and its Key Cities in 2015California report.
  • The State of the Unions 2015: A Profile of Organized Labor in New York City, New York State, and the United StatesNew York report.

Visit ILEPI at, like ILEPI on Facebook, and follow ILEPI on Twitter @IllinoisEPI.

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