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June 19, 2003

Who is in Unions

More in response to Kevin.

There is a stereotype that unions organize richer workers.

Which misses the point that unions historically organized exploited workers who, because of unions, became better off. See this table for how union workers in the same occupation do better than non-union counterparts. See here for how unions help workers in the lowest-paid occupations.

But here's something that goes against conventional wisdom. The average black worker is more likely to be in a union than a white worker-- in fact, African American men and women have among the highest unionization rates of U.S. workers (18 percent and 16 percent, respectively) compared to lower rates for white women (11 percent) and white men (14 percent). And while unionization rates for white workers has declined since 1983, the rate of unionization has risen by 39 percent among Latinos since the early 1980s. See here for more.

And the largest new organizing is happening among the lowest paid workers, notably among the hundreds of thousands of home health aides who have organized across the country in recent years. Check out this press release on the 124,000 new workers organized in 2002 by Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the largest union in the AFL-CIO due its intensive organizing in recent years.

The idea that unions are obsessed with rigid work rules may be true in a few building trades unions, but is just dead wrong in most of the labor movement where fighting for health care for present members is probably the top priority and fighting for basic rights is the key among new members.

I appreciate Kevin's willingness to ask the questions, but it's a mark of anti-union propaganda that even progressive folks like Kevin and Kos have such a misguided and antiquated view of what unions are about these days.

Go the AFL-CIO site and the SEIU site and just read through news and basic information about unions. It should be mandatory education for progressives.

Posted by Nathan at June 19, 2003 03:38 PM