Expanding and strengthening union membership is the lifeblood of the labor movement, making possible everything else we do. The more workers who join unions and become actively involved, the more power we have to build a brighter future for working families.
The union advantage is clear. On average, union workers’ wages are 30 percent higher than the wages of their nonunion counterparts. Union workers are also much more likely to have health insurance, pensions, job security, paid leave, and a real say in improving their jobs.
Here in Massachusetts, more and more workers are choosing the benefits of union membership. In 2008, Massachusetts unions added nearly 80,000 new members to their ranks, among the largest percentage increases of any state in the nation.
Unions don’t just help union members—they’re good for everyone. Union jobs put a “floor” under wages and benefits for entire industries, raising pay, making good benefits a key part of compensation, and improving conditions for all workers. And unions contribute to shared economic prosperity by helping to create a strong middle class that has the buying power to support local businesses, shops, and services.
At the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, we’re committed to two crucial goals: protecting the basic democratic right of workers to form unions and continuing the growth of union membership in our commonwealth.
Through our organizing program:
- We fight for state and national legislation that strengthens workers’ organizing rights and outlaws employer intimidation of workers who seek to form unions and bargain first contracts. In 2007, we won passage of a groundbreaking new state law, the Written Majority Authorization bill. Signed by Governor Deval Patrick at the Massachusetts AFL-CIO’s 50th annual convention, the law gives public sector workers the right to form a union when a majority express support for a union in writing—the simplest and fairest path to union representation. At the federal level, we’re working with the national AFL-CIO and other allies to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, legislation that would guarantee similar “majority sign-up” rights for private sector workers. This federal legislation would also stiffen penalties against employers who harass, intimidate, and retaliate against workers who support a union, as well as empower labor to go to binding arbitration to ensure a first contract.
- We provide resources, support, and training to develop a strong cadre of organizers in the Massachusetts labor movement. A key way we do this is through our monthly Organizing Roundtable. Comprised of labor leaders and organizers from diverse sectors and industries across the state, the roundtable meets monthly throughout the year to share knowledge, experience, strategies, and tactics in support of organizing efforts.
- We connect Massachusetts workers who want union representation with the appropriate local union or unions. We also help provide information and training so that prospective union members understand the organizing process.
- We use our clout and connections to support local organizing and bargaining efforts. For example, we help our local unions enlist the support of elected officials, community groups, social justice advocates, and faith-based organizations. The more leverage local unions have, the greater their chances of success.
- We use our collective strength to help resolve strikes quickly and favorably for workers. A strike is always the last resort, but when one does occur, we act as a go- to resource and mobilizing agent for the striking workers. Working with local unions and Central Labor Councils, we educate the public, the media, and key decision makers about the issues involved, and we use our leverage to build community support. We also partner with the United Way of Massachusetts Bay, the United Way of Central Massachusetts, the national AFL-CIO, and Central Labor Councils to help striking workers access vital services including food banks, family counseling, and heating assistance.
- We enlist our network of activists, including retirees, to support key legislation and organizing drives. Our powerful grassroots network can be mobilized on short notice to take action in favor of workers and worker rights. Retirees are among the most committed activists, lending their time, talent, and expertise to our mobilizing efforts.