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Oregon Union Numbers Continue Their Decline

January 29, 2007

Union membership, in Oregon and the rest of the nation, continues to drop. New numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show union members make up only 12 percent of the nation's workforce. Sheet metal worker and union organizer Willy Meyers says that's bad news for all Oregon workers, because unions set higher standards for workers' rights, benefits and wages.

"Unions float all boats. If the majority of the work in the area is done union, then the union wage prevails. If the majority is done non-union, then it's an average between the union rate and non-union rate, which is almost always lower."

The decline comes at the same time organized labor is asking Congress to consider the "Employee Free Choice Act," which would make it easier to form a union and impose additional penalties on employers who violate labor laws. Local unions also are pushing the Oregon Legislature to pass similar legislation this session. Critics say these bills would deprive individual workers of their privacy, but Meyers says the overall protection is necessary.

"The owners spend a lot more money sometimes on union-busting than what it would cost them to sit down and actually negotiate a raise for their employees."

Meyers feels the decline in union membership is due in part to job outsourcing, as well as to big business' union-busting practices.

The statistics can be found online at www.bls.gov/news.release/union2.toc.htm.

Dondrea Warner/Jamie Folsom, Public News Service - OR