According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Oregon’s union membership increased by 1.8% in 2020, part of a larger trend of working people standing together, speaking up and demanding a just and fair economy for all. According to Gallup, the popularity of labor unions nationwide is at 65% - one of the highest it has been in 50 years. Oregon AFL-CIO President Graham Trainor remarked on the growing ranks of Oregon’s unions:
“It is clear that working people see unions and collective bargaining as an effective weapon against the devastating economic freefall brought on by COVID-19,” remarked Graham Trainor, Oregon AFL-CIO President. “When you combine our growing numbers with higher approval ratings than we have seen in half a century, it tells us that workers also see labor unions as a conduit to rebuild our economy in a way that works better for everyone, not just the wealthy and well-connected.”
Politically, Oregon’s unions are eager to see change come from both state and federal lawmakers. Efforts to increase workplace safety measures to protect workers from COVID-19 exposure are working, according to data released from the Oregon Health Authority, but with variants of COVID-19 on the rise more must be done. The percent of total COVID-19 cases connected to worksites has fallen from nearly 20% in October to just over 12% now. President Trainor responded to the decrease:
“The timeline of workplace-related COVID-19 cases decreasing alongside the implementation of Oregon OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standard shows us we are on the right track to making work safe during this deadly pandemic. Oregon’s unions and worker advocates fought to make our temporary rule strong and OHA’s numbers show us our efforts must continue. We hope to see a stronger set of permanent protections from Oregon OSHA released soon to protect Oregon’s workers from being exposed to COVID-19 on the job as well as action from the State Legislature to protect workers during this crisis.”
Oregon unions, along with the National AFL-CIO, encourage the Biden Administration and Congress to do everything possible to protect working people COVID-19 and its economic devastation. One key to that is passing the PRO Act to reduce barriers to joining unions, which National AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka spoke to in a press statement issued last week:
“The inauguration of President Joe Biden, who showed on his first day he is willing to fight for working people’s safety and to get union busters out of government, presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to finally create an environment where what workers desire truly drives union density. And that requires passing the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act so that our labor laws support and protect the freedom to form a union.”
The Oregon AFL-CIO continues to organize a database of COVID-19 outbreaks at Oregon workplaces, which is available at www.oraflcio.org/osha.