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Unions Try “Something New” – and Membership Grows

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PHOTO: Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain says a new collaboration between established unions is helping new unions get off the ground. 300 Head Start workers turned in their union cards Monday. Photo courtesy of Oregon AFL-CIO
PHOTO: Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain says a new collaboration between established unions is helping new unions get off the ground. 300 Head Start workers turned in their union cards Monday. Photo courtesy of Oregon AFL-CIO
 By Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Contact
April 30, 2013

PORTLAND, Ore. - Unions in Oregon are banding together to help new unions get off the ground ... and organizers say the new approach is working. Some 300 Head Start employees submitted cards to the Employment Relations Board Monday to form a union, and about 3000 workers have set up unions in the past year.

According to Oregon AFL-CIO president Tom Chamberlain, established unions share advice, manpower and sometimes even money with the new labor ventures.

"To give workers an opportunity to decide whether they want a union or not takes some real coordination to sort of push back on this multi-million-dollar industry that's grown up around union-busting, and denying workers the right to organize," he declared.

He explained that the idea arose after hearing from workers who were interested in forming a union, but didn't have time or expertise to do it on their own.

Bruce Hansen, the business representative for Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757, said the new approach of offering support meant 170 new members.

"Communicating all the way through the process, updating them, keeping them involved," was the work to be done, he said. "Actually, in this one particular location, our local has tried to organize them, I believe, three additional times unsuccessfully up until this point."

Some of the unions in the new partnership: Oregon AFL-CIO, Communications Workers of America, Oregon Nurses Association and the Oregon State Building and Construction Trades Council, among others.

Complete list of the new organizing table is at ORAFLCIO.org.

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