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Oregon’s Union Membership Has Actually Grown Since the Recession Began

As anti-worker forces try to strip unions of their rights from state to state, Oregon is making laws that facilitate organization of workers. The result has been that union membership is up over the past five years in the state that now sports the 7th-highest membership rate (17.1) in the nation:

Oregon’s union membership has been steadily growing during the past five years. In 2006, about 211,000 Oregonians belonged to a union. That number by last year had increased to an estimated 270,000 union members.

“It is a striking figure,” said Bob Bussel, an associate professor and director of the Labor Education and Research Center at the University of Oregon.

Much of the success in Oregon can be attributed to the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which has worked to organize home health care professionals. This industry has benefited from legislative changes, according to Bussel:

“Oregon has been one of the pioneering places where people involved in health care were granted the right to unionize,” Bussel said. “There’s certainly some new organizing and new people brought in within those sectors. That’s been a real bright spot, as far as union growth.”

Interestingly, the recession has not stunted labor’s growth, Elana Guiney, spokeswoman for Oregon AFL-CIO, said:

“Our membership has been growing since the start of the recession,” Guiney said. “We notice a lot more interest. We’ve gotten a lot more calls from people interested in organizing since the recession started.”


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