Thursday, August 28, 2008

Union Workers

Many people have a misconception that union workers are all gruff, white, male factory workers. This, of course, is silly but doesn't stop people from minimizing the diversity of union jobs. I noticed this in HRC's speech on Tuesday night:

...teachers and firefighters, nurses and police officers...and union workers
This statement implies that teachers, firefightes, nurses, and police officers, are generally not unionized since union workers are treated as a separate category. For instance if I said ice cream will be served to Sarah, Tony, and the bad children, it would imply that Sarah and Tony were NOT bad children.

I am not well versed in BLS stats. I found this after some digging on teacher's stats:
In 2006, more than half of all elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers belonged to unions—mainly the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association—that bargain with school systems over salaries, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment.
There are two major US education unions, the AFT has 1.4M members and the NEA has 3.2M members. According to census there are slighly over 6M teachers in the US. This means apprxomately 75% of US teachers are union. The number is probably somewhat lower since some AFT and NEA members aren't classroom teachers but suffice it to say most teachers in the US are union.

According to the International Association of Firefighters (AFL-CIO), they represent 290,000 full-time professional fire fighters and paramedics who protect 85% of the nation’s population. The overall number of firefighters represented is probably less than 85% but the main point is that the overwhelming majority of American firefighters are unionized.

There are more than 12 unions which represent nurses and much ambiguity about calculating union rate in that industry since there isn't a universally accepted agreement on which healthcare professionals should properly be considered nurses.

Police Officers are also somewhat ambiguous, are parole officers in? Correctional guards? Sheriffs? Many law enforcement officers have quasi-unions, and others have conventional unions. Most police officers, if you slice it in a reasonable way, have a union or union-like collective representation structure.

All this to say, let's stop implying that nurses, police, firefighters, EMTs, etc aren't union members. Usually they are.

Clarification: HRC is very good on union issues. I just noticed this messaging issue in a speech of hers this week. I presume it was an accident. This shouldn't be read as a criticism of HRC's labor record or an implication that she hasn't been a friend.

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