The 15 Most Unionized Occupations in 2022

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Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on Smartest Dollar.

2022 has brought some of the most noteworthy victories for organized labor in the U.S. in a number of years. Workers at major corporations like Starbucks, Amazon, and Apple have led successful union drives.

Petitions for union elections filed at the National Labor Relations Board are up by more than 50% over last year. And under President Joe Biden, an avowed labor advocate, Congress has been deliberating legislation that would strengthen unions and make it easier to organize.

Organized labor in the U.S. has historically been a powerful advocate for workers. Unions have been a driving force behind many reforms that are now fundamental labor protections, like the minimum wage, overtime pay, and child labor laws, and influential interest in U.S. elections. At the height of labor’s strength in the U.S., the union membership rate among all workers was 34.8%.

But unionization has been on a steady downward trajectory in recent decades. Workers in heavily unionized fields like manufacturing lost power amid the economic downturn and high unemployment of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Globalization and free trade agreements made it easier for employers to offshore jobs to less expensive labor markets, and automation and other technological advances have also decreased the number of workers in unionized jobs.

Deregulation and other policy changes like right-to-work laws have decreased union strength. These shifts sharply cut down the share of U.S. workers in unions.

Despite the downward trend in union participation overall, parts of the economy continue to have fairly strong union participation. Because public sector employees tend to join unions at higher rates, most of the industries with the highest rates of union membership are dominated by public sector employers.

The data used in this analysis is from Unionstats.com. To determine the most unionized occupations, researchers at Smartest Dollar calculated the union membership rate for each occupation.

Here are the most unionized occupations.

15. Carpenters

Comeback Images / Shutterstock.com
  • Union membership rate: 15.4%
  • Union coverage rate: 16.8%
  • Total union membership: 136,930
  • Total union coverage: 150,104

14. Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers

Worker installing a home security system
Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock.com
  • Union membership rate: 15.4%
  • Union coverage rate: 17.8%
  • Total union membership: 59,327
  • Total union coverage: 68,592

13. Industrial and refractory machinery mechanics

Manufacturing worker
ESB Professional / Shutterstock.com
  • Union membership rate: 15.7%
  • Union coverage rate: 16.8%
  • Total union membership: 68,017
  • Total union coverage: 72,819

12. Education and childcare administrators

Senior working in an office
stockfour / Shutterstock.com
  • Union membership rate: 16.1%
  • Union coverage rate: 19.2%
  • Total union membership: 143,766
  • Total union coverage: 170,835

11. Welding, soldering, and brazing workers

Welder
Zivica Kerkez / Shutterstock.com
  • Union membership rate: 16.2%
  • Union coverage rate: 17.7%
  • Total union membership: 84,319
  • Total union coverage: 92,332

10. Registered nurses

Nurse
GagliardiImages / Shutterstock.com
  • Union membership rate: 17.1%
  • Union coverage rate: 19.2%
  • Total union membership: 537,329
  • Total union coverage: 603,554

9. Preschool and kindergarten teachers

Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com
  • Union membership rate: 18.1%
  • Union coverage rate: 21.1%
  • Total union membership: 104,394
  • Total union coverage: 121,553

8. Postsecondary teachers

stockfour / Shutterstock.com
  • Union membership rate: 20.0%
  • Union coverage rate: 22.9%
  • Total union membership: 229,467
  • Total union coverage: 263,019

7. Social workers, all other

Family therapist
YAKOBCHUK VIACHESLAV / Shutterstock.com
  • Union membership rate: 20.4%
  • Union coverage rate: 22.0%
  • Total union membership: 132,423
  • Total union coverage: 142,878

6. Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters

Plumber repairing a toilet
alfernec / Shutterstock.com
  • Union membership rate: 24.8%
  • Union coverage rate: 26.4%
  • Total union membership: 128,554
  • Total union coverage: 136,646

5. Teaching assistants

Teacher and students
SpeedKingz / Shutterstock.com
  • Union membership rate: 26.7%
  • Union coverage rate: 30.3%
  • Total union membership: 344,023
  • Total union coverage: 389,581

4. Electricians

Electrician performing a home inspection
ETAP / Shutterstock.com
  • Union membership rate: 31.2%
  • Union coverage rate: 31.7%
  • Total union membership: 238,369
  • Total union coverage: 242,154

3. Elementary and middle school teachers

Teacher and student in classroom
Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com
  • Union membership rate: 46.6%
  • Union coverage rate: 51.6%
  • Total union membership: 1,519,386
  • Total union coverage: 1,682,758

2. Secondary school teachers

Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com
  • Union membership rate: 49.6%
  • Union coverage rate: 55.1%
  • Total union membership: 464,121
  • Total union coverage: 515,333

1. Police officers

Minneapolis Police
miker / Shutterstock.com
  • Union membership rate: 52.8%
  • Union coverage rate: 55.7%
  • Total union membership: 405,642
  • Total union coverage: 428,165

Detailed Findings & Methodology

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The data used in this analysis is from Unionstats.com. To determine the most unionized occupations, researchers calculated the union membership rate for each occupation. In the event of a tie, the occupation with the greater union coverage rate was ranked higher. To improve relevance, only the top 100 occupations, by number of U.S. employees, were considered in this analysis.