Wisconsin. Collective bargaining rights for teachers. NRLB v. Boeing. Everywhere you look, unions are a major issue, especially when it comes to the public sector. A new report analyzes the environment for labor unions and taxpayers in each of the 50 states, and ranks them. According to Workplacechoice.org, Minnesota is more cozy to labor unions than all but 9 other states. Its public sector is more unionized than that of all but three states. Surprised?

The index, like any good index, has several components. They include:

  • The dollar amount that pensions for public employees are underfunded;
  • The percentage of the workforce that is unionized, broken out by private and public sector;
  • Whether or not a state has a “card check” law that does away with the secret ballot as a condition of unionizing a business;
  • Whether government construction projects must use union labor as a matter of law.

The index also draws attention to differences between the private and public sector. In Minnesota, only 8.4 percent of the private sector is unionized, but 57 percent of the public sector is.

There is, of course, a big difference between private-sector unions and public-sector ones, as Franklin Roosevelt once observed, “It is impossible to bargain collectively with the government.” In many states, though, the public sector–that is, government–is where unions are busy.

Public sector unions are more important in Minnesota than in most other states. It falls behind just three states–New York (70.5), Connecticut (64.4) and New Jersey (59)–in the percentage of its public workforce that is unionized. That puts Minnesota ahead of states known for unionism (especially in the private sector): Illinois (50.2), Pennsylvania (49.9), Michigan (48.9), and Ohio (43.1). In fact, Minnesota’s public workforce is more unionized than even that of California (56.6) and Wisconsin (46.6), two states where public unions are known for being powerful. (OK, maybe “not so much” for Wisconsin.)

WorkplaceChoice.org calls its work the “big labor versus taxpayer index.” Given where Minnesota ranks, one may question whether government here serves the people or the unions, which is to say, itself.