Unions Rebounding in U.S. California Leads National Gains in Membership

A new generation of working Americans is turning the Labor Movement around, and UFCW 8 is helping lead the way.

After more than 25 straight years of decline, Union membership is gaining in the United States.

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that America’s  Unions added about 311,000 members last year, raising the Unionized share of the work force for the first time since the bureau started collecting membership data in 1983. Union membership now totals approximately 15.7 million.

Two-thirds of the increase occurred in California, where more than 200,000 workers joined Unions in 2007. UFCW 8-Golden State has been a trailblazer in California’s revitalized Labor Movement.

Last year, UFCW 8 was recognized by the UFCW International Union with its Growth Award for excellence in organizing. In particular, the recent Food Maxx campaign, which brought 1,300 new workers into the Union family, was spotlighted as a model of organizing for other Unions to emulate.

UFCW 8’s latest successes have brought in yet another 1,000 new members at 13 Save Mart stores in Central California.

Nationwide, Union jobs in the retail industry increased from 5 percent of the work force in 2006 to 5.2 percent in 2007.

In other industries, construction Unions increased their membership faster than the rate of job growth, with membership jumping from 13 percent in 2006 to 13.9 percent in 2007. Membership in the private health and education sectors grew from 8.3 percent to 8.8 percent.
In an editorial titled “A Hopeful Year for Unions,” the New York Times praised the BLS report as the “one sliver of good news” for working Americans in a season of mortgage crises and looming recession.

“There is little doubt that American workers need Unions,” the Times wrote, noting that wages today are about 10 percent lower than they were in 1973, after adjusting for inflation. While profits have soared, the share of corporate income that goes to workers is at its lowest point since the late 1960s.

The Times blames the deteriorating status of American workers on the decline in Union membership. “Employers have become more aggressive about keeping Unions out,” the newspaper observes, correctly. At the same time, “competitive pressures from globalization, deregulation and technological change have resulted in the loss of many Union jobs.”

So, why the latest good news from the Bureau of Labor Statistics? The Times cites “the renewed emphasis on organizing workers by some of the nation’s largest unions” — including the United Food and Commercial Workers — “that split off from the AFL-CIO to form the Change to Win coalition.” Change to Win was founded on the principle that organizing is the key to reversing the declining fortunes of America’s working people. Consequently, the coalition’s member Unions — the UFCW, Teamsters and the SEIU, among others — have redirected funds and energy toward bringing more Americans under the banner of Union membership.

Now, with a renewed sense of purpose, we have begun the process of turning our great country around. A new chapter is being written in Labor history, and our members are up to the challenge.

Solidarity Works!