Oregon AFL-CIO

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BLS Union Data Shows Working People on the Rise

(Portland, Ore.) — Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its annual report on union membership, which found that the number of union members rose by 260,000 in 2017 nationwide. This reflects a wave of organizing victories across a range of industries which have brought higher wages, better benefits, and a more secure future for working people. In Oregon, union membership increased in 2017 from 228,000 to 262,000 – a 1.4% increase.

Additionally, the Oregon AFL-CIO saw the membership of affiliated unions increase by 2.4% in 2017, a sign that the State Federation is growing strongly.  This growth is attributed to successful organizing efforts among affiliated unions during the past year.  The State Federation provides ongoing assistance and support to affiliated unions in both internal and external union organizing campaigns as a way to strengthen Oregon’s union movement and by extension, create more prosperity for working people across the state.


 “Today’s data is more than numbers, it tells us a powerful story and gives working people hope for a better future.  It’s about workers standing together to bring forward positive change at work.  That’s what belonging to a union is about: standing shoulder to shoulder with your coworkers to protect your freedom to find prosperity, to earn a decent living, to have safe working conditions and respect and dignity on the job,” said Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain. “We live in a country where inequality is rampant.  Unions remain the single most effective tool for working people to fight back against inequality. As more workers stand together, our movement will grow, and the future of millions of families will be more secure. This is good news, but our work is not over.  Oregon’s unions remain committed to building a state where working people can prosper, and where our freedom to stand together in union is fiercely protected.”

Key National Trends:

  • Workers in so-called “Right-To-Work” states like South Carolina and Michigan are joining unions by the thousands.
  • Young workers continue to drive union growth. Since 2012, union membership among workers under 35 has continued to rise. Last year, they made up three quarters of new members.
  • Professionals and information industry workers continue to drive growth, reflecting key organizing successes by the Communications Workers of America; the Writer’s Guild of America, East; the American Federation of Teachers; and the American Federation of Government Employees.
  • Recent victories are among workers across sectors ranging from media employees to charter school teachers and librarian professionals to the 20,000 doctors who joined unions in the last year.