Latino Workers Boost California Union Membership Numbers

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Whereas unions across the nation lost about 400,000 members, the Los Angeles Times identifies Latino workers as being the driving force behind a 100,000-member increase for California labor unions in the last year.

What attracts Latino workers to California's labor unions?

"There's an appetite among these low-wage workers to try and get a collective voice to give themselves opportunity and a middle-class lifestyle," a spokesperson for the California Labor Federation tells the publication. With 18.4 percent of California's workers represented by a union, economic concerns for higher wages are predominant considerations. A secondary reason for joining up is job security in a precarious economy.

Who are the newest union members in the Golden State?

The Press-Telegram identifies hotel workers as being one special interest group to boost union membership in the last year. Approximately 1,500 workers joined Unite Here Local 11, which represents hospitality workers in the counties of L.A. and Orange.

Which unions are losing members?

Where private sector workers flock to unions, as there are more jobs being created, public sector unions are losing members due to cuts in their workforce. For example, the California Teachers Association now only has 315,000 members while five years ago this number was 350,000.

How does union representation in 2012 compare to 2011 figures?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that in 2011, unions represented 18.2 percent of Californians. By 2012, this figure increased to 18.4 percent.

What do unions accomplish for their members?

An example of the advantages that union membership offers is found in the teaching profession. Teacher Portal identifies California as the 14th-friendliest state for teachers. California ranks first for teacher starting salaries with $56,950. Over a 10-year period, the salary raise is projected to be 29.3 percent. "With recent budget issues, the education budget has come into question -- luckily strong unions and interest in education at a national and state level looks to keep this a secure place to be," the experts opine. Overall, California's unionized workers make 30 percent more in wages when compared to colleagues outside the union, the Press Telegram notes.

What is next for California's unions?

As outlined by the Huffington Post, labor unions in the Golden State are now joining forces to battle private sector employers' demands for concessions. The National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) and the California Nurses Association (CNA) now jointly represent 95,000 nurses who are concerned about "declining workplace standards in the industry." This setup of a joined front also points to longstanding disagreements with the Service Employee International Union-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU), which nurses believe has become too employer-friendly.

Sylvia Cochran is a Los Angeles-area resident with a firm finger on the pulse of California politics. Talk radio junkie, community volunteer and politically independent, she scrutinizes the good and the bad from both sides of the political aisle.

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