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Latinos and Nurses Helped California Union Membership Grow in 2012

While most states saw a decline in union membership in 2012, California bucked the trend as 100,000 new workers joined collective bargaining units. Pushing the growth were Latino workers and nurses, the Los Angeles Times reported today. Overall, 11.3% of America's workers are current union members, which is a smaller percentage from 2011, but in California, the number is closer to 18% and is growing. Other southwestern states, such as Nevada and Texas, are also seeing growth in union membership.

Latino workers are playing a big role in this growth. Los Angeles Times writer Alana Semuels reports:

"This has a lot to do with the changing demographics of the workforce in these states," said Ruben Garcia, a labor law professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. "The big campaigns in the carwash industry in L.A., the janitors in Houston and the people who work on the Strip here tend to be an immigrant Latino workforce that's willing to stand up at the workplace, sometimes with great risks."

Nurses were also a group that became more unionized in California in 2012:

Jackie McKay, 48, is one of the new crop of California union members. A nurse in the intensive-care unit at Community Hospital Long Beach, McKay said she and colleagues decided to try to organize after a new company took over the hospital and nurses weren't comfortable with the way they were being treated.

"We were sort of seeking out someone that we felt was on our side," she said. "We needed some backup."

The Long Beach nurses voted 94 to 30 to unionize in December.

David Johnson, organizing director of the California Nurses Association/NNU, told Semuels:

To be successful in organizing unions in the United States in 2013, it's not enough just to appeal to workers on the basis of their own individual problems....There has to be a broader vision set forth so that people see unions and the labor movement as an answer to the corporate domination and the Wall Street greed that has devastated our country.

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