RI’s government unions second-strongest in the United States

Rhode Island’s public sector remains one of the biggest strongholds of organized labor in the United States, a key reason supporters of the Raimondo-Chafee pension bill are facing a stiff challenge in trying to get the legislation passed through the Democratic-dominated General Assembly.

As of last year, 67% of the roughly 62,000 government workers in Rhode Island were covered by union contracts, according to data provided to WPRI.com by the Bureau of National Affairs, a private research firm in Virginia.

The public-sector unionization rate in Rhode Island was second-highest in the country in 2010, topped only by New York, where 73% of government employees were covered by collective-bargaining agreements, according to BNA.

The national average was far lower, with 40% of public-sector workers nationwide covered by union contracts. Third-ranked Connecticut was close behind Rhode Island at 66%, followed by No. 4 Massachusetts at 64%, according to BNA.

While two-thirds of government workers in Rhode Island are represented by a union, their private-sector counterparts are unlikely to be. Only 16% of the state’s total work force were union members in 2010, federal data shows.

(flyer: Rhode Island Retirement Security Coalition)

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