A Profile of Unionization in Minnesota and in America

  • Jill Manzo
    Midwest Economic Policy Institute
  • Monica Bielski Boris, Ph.D.
    University of Minnesota
  • Frank Manzo IV, M.P.P.
    Illinois Economic Policy Institute
  • Robert Bruno, Ph.D.
    University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


The report presents an overview on the PDF iconState of Unions in Minnesota 2017 (1.9 MB)status of unionized employment in the state and analyzes the effect unions have on wages and benefits. It was co-authored by Monica Bielski Boris of the University of Minnesota’s Labor Education Service along with researchers from the Midwest Economic Policy Institute, the University of Illinois and the Illinois Economic Policy Institute.

In Minnesota, union membership increases a worker’s wages by 8 percent on average, the researchers found. The positive union effect on wages bumps up to nearly 9 percent for women and 14 percent for workers of color.  Unions help to close racial and gender income gaps.

“Unions are therefore one of the most effective anti-poverty institutions in Minnesota,” Bielski Boris and the other authors wrote.

The union membership rate is 14.2 percent in Minnesota, 3.5 percentage points higher than the U.S. average, according to the report. In 2016, about 364,000 workers in Minnesota belonged to a labor union. This reflects a modest and steady increase in union membership over the past few years. In 2012 there were 351,000 union members.

The type of job a person holds has the greatest impact on the likelihood of being a union member. Public sector workers have a higher rate of unionization than private sector workers. Minnesotans working in construction, education, health services and transportation are also more likely to have union representation.  

Labor unions continue to face challenges – both economically and politically – to their growth, the authors note. “However, organized labor still plays a vital role in Minnesota’s economy and communities.”