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Union members lost fewer jobs during this pandemic. That’s a difference a union makes

Photo credit: Getty
By AFSCME Staff ·

AFSCME President Lee Saunders issued the following statement in response to today’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) annual report on union membership.

“Today’s report reaffirms that when working people have the freedom to come together and join a union, they enjoy greater economic security and a higher standard of living for themselves and their families. Year after year, union members earn more than their nonunion counterparts, with the union difference being especially pronounced for women and people of color.

“In 2020, union membership also provided millions of workers with a strong shield against the brutal economic toll exacted by the pandemic. Despite devastating job losses overall, including the shedding of more than 1.3 million public service jobs due to massive revenue and budget shortfalls, union membership rates rose in the public sector – because union members experienced less job loss than their nonunion peers.

“That’s the union difference – protection against shockwaves and catastrophic events beyond our control. Organizing unions helped save millions of Americans from falling behind during the worst health and economic crisis in a century.

“Still, even before the pandemic, too many Americans were denied the basic freedoms, protections and benefits of a strong union. Union popularity is higher than it has been since 2003, and a growing number of Americans across job sectors are organizing for a voice on the job. So, let’s give them the opportunity to join a union, which is greater than it has been in years, now that we have a steadfastly pro-labor president of the United States.

“It’s time to pass the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, which strengthens the right of public employees to join unions and engage in collective bargaining, and the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act), which makes it easier for private sector workers to form and join unions. And it is time to fund the front lines – delivering robust aid for states, cities, towns and schools to maintain essential public services and keep public service workers on the job.”

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