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Oregon’s Unions Grew in 2019, But Barriers Continue to Prevent Workers from Organizing

PORTLAND, ORE. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released their annual report on union membership today, and the number of Oregon workers who are represented by unions has increased from 256,000 to 277,000. The growth in Oregon is unique: national union membership is down 0.2 percentage points from 2018.

In Oregon, the rise in union membership coincides with both an increase in collective action as well as a rising public approval ratings for unions. Oregon AFL-CIO President Graham Trainor reacted to the BLS report, explaining why Oregon’s workers are standing together at work to call for change:

“It is not surprising to see an increase from 2018 to 2019 in union membership in Oregon. Working people are not seeing a fair return on their hard work. Monthly employment and economic reports show us that the stock market is soaring, but wages are stagnant. More and more workers are having to piece together a living through multiple low-wage jobs. At the same time, we see policies like the Trump Administration’s tax cuts put more money into the pockets of CEOs and Wall Street. Working people are fed up, and we are standing together at historic levels.”

Despite this slight bump in union density, barriers to joining a union remain in place for working people. A highly politicized National Labor Relations Board is abandoning its mission to uphold and protect workers' rights to form unions and bargain collectively, as employers are violating the law in more than 40% of all union election campaigns. Furthermore, labor laws in this country are not working and are outdated, which is why Oregon’s unions and worker advocates nationwide are calling for labor law reform through three pieces of crucial legislation: The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act (H.R. 2474), the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act (H.R. 6238), and the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act (H.R. 1154).

If passed, the PRO Act will be the first pro-worker change to the 1935 National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) in its 85-year history. The PRO Act protects working people when we form unions, protects the right to strike, rolls back so-called “right to work laws,” includes first contract arbitration, provides substantial relief for workers whose rights have been violated, and calls for real penalties for employers who break the law.

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