PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The Labor Day Powell’s strike and looming strike authorization vote for OHSU nurses come amid an increased movement to unionize across the United States, with public support for unions reaching a 50-year high, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
With the growing labor movement, the National Labor Relations Board saw a 53% increase in union petitions between October 2021 and September 2022. According to Oregon AFL-CIO President Graham Trainor, 75% of those union elections were successful in 2022.
“There’s lots of reasons that go into what’s driving this moment in labor action. Coming out of the pandemic, workers were treated as expendable while told that they were heroes by employers and so workers are angry, we’re reclaiming our power and we’re doing that at a time when union approval rating… is through the roof,” Trainor explained.
According to Trainor, workers are organizing for more than a pay increase.
“Workers who want to join a union or form a union in their workplace are looking for much more than just a bigger paycheck. They’re looking for dignity, they’re looking for a say in their working conditions,” Trainor said.
He added, “especially coming out of the pandemic, workers need to have some stability in their lives and the greatest way to do that is through unionizing, through coming together with your co-workers and bargaining a fair contract that meets the needs of workers whether it’s about wages, benefits or just a say in the workplace.”
In the Pacific Northwest, Trainor says Oregon and Washington are considered a “union-strong” region, with Oregon ranking between the fourth and eighth most union-dense state.
“Of course, there’s always a need to grow. We believe that any worker dreaming of a better life has a place in the Oregon and the Pacific Northwest or the west coast labor movement,” Trainor added.
“Obviously, we have an exciting time that we’re in the midst of. This is historic. What’s not historic is inequality or the quality of our jobs being eroded. What is historic is that workers are reclaiming our power in this moment, given the union favorability statistics, given the percentages of wins at the NLRB with union elections … and the fact that we’re in an economy that gives workers a bit more leverage, gives us a lot more hope about the growth potential in the future with so many different organizing campaigns happening around the state and around the region,” Trainor said.
“It’s not just about the strikes, it’s about the organizing win, the workers who are forming their unions for the first time because they see a union in their workplace as the greatest way to make change.”