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Greater Unionization Could Pump $947 (M) Million into Virginia Economy

February 27, 2009

Richmond - Virginia workers, faith leaders, and economic justice organizations joined forces this week to rally in support of the Employee Free Choice Act, a proposed federal law that would make it easier for workers to unionize. A report released this week finds that union workers in Virginia earn $3 more per hour than their non-union counterparts. It also predicts a five-percent increase in union membership would pump an additional $947 million into Virginia's economy.

Sherleen Bright is a personal care worker who supports the Act, says her job, caring for the elderly, is one that can't be outsourced overseas.

"I give them the quality care they deserve, because I've worked in nursing homes, I've worked for agencies, and it just gives a great sense of pride to be able to help them to stay in their homes and get the quality care they need."

If more people were members of a union, says Bright, the better wages and greater professionalism would attract more people to a career she finds deeply satisfying.

"The job of caring for the elderly has just given me such a fulfillment, because I feel like the people need me and it fills a void in my life."

The report, published by the Center for American Progress, shows that unions benefit workers and business owners alike in professionalizing service work and turning it into a long-term career with less employee turnover. Opponents, including most business owners, argue the law would eliminate employees' rights to vote for union membership by secret ballot, possibly leading to increased harassment and intimidation by either a union or an employer.

Congressional action on the Employee Free Choice Act is expected this summer.

Aries Keck, Public News Service - VA