Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Higher and Higher: Debt by state and levels of unionization

Higher public sector unionization means higher public sector debt (speaking of the debt, have you seen our sister organization, the Employment Policies Institute’s Defeat the Debt campaign?). Labor unions generally ignore the connection, or claim its caused by something else, but when public sector employees are draining state coffers, like California’s, into deeper debt, it’s an unavoidable connection.


The Cato Institute did a little study on states and their rising debts. Interestingly enough, they discovered something common among states with high per-capita debts.

That something in common would be a high level of unionization of government employees. Yup, the states with the highest per-capita debt also happened to be the states with the largest government union workforces. You can see a handy little chart if you click here, but here are some of the details:

  • Among states whose government workers are less than 40 percent unionized, median per capita state debt is $2,238.
  • Among states with between 40 and 60 percent of their government workers in public sector unions, the average debt is $3,609.
  • Among states with more than 60 percent of the government workforce unionized, the average (median) per capita debt is $6,380.

Image courtesy of Jeff Belmonte.

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