The Maine Labor Mural at the Maine State Library. photo: Ramona du Houx

More and more Maine workers are organizing unions & fighting better wages, benefits and a seat at the table

February 2, 2021

Union membership in Maine grew by 13,000 members in 2020, marking a 3 percent increase from 2019, according to new data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Union density rose from about 12 percent in 2019 to 15 percent in 2020. The report also finds that nearly 17 percent of Maine workers in 2020 were represented by unions — an increase of 3 percent from 2019. Maine’s union density outpaced the national average of 10.8 percent, which increased by 0.5 percent in 2020.

“More and more Maine workers are organizing and fighting for better wages, working conditions, safety on the job and democracy in the workplace,” said Cynthia Phinney, President of the Maine AFL-CIO. “The pandemic has reminded all of us that working people are essential. The best way for essential workers to have safe workplaces, respect at work and good jobs is by joining together with coworkers in a union.” 

The Maine AFL-CIO attributes the growth in union membership in Maine to three factors: 1) increased internal organizing in already organized public sector and federal sector workforces; 2) new union organizing; 3) increased hiring in essential unionized sectors of the Maine economy.  Increased overall density can be attributed to all of these factors plus significant layoffs in non-union sectors of the economy due to COVID. The BLS report also found that among full-time wage and salary workers, union members earned 16 percent more than non-union members. In addition, BLS has also reported that union members are far more likely to have employer-provided health care and retirement benefits

  • 95 percent of union workers had the option of an employer-sponsored health care plan, compared to 68 percent of nonunion workers.
  • 94 percent of union workers had access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan, compared to 67 percent of nonunion workers.
  • 93 percent of union workers had the option of an employer-sponsored prescription drug coverage, compared to 67 percent of nonunion workers.
  • 74 percent of union workers had the option of an employer-sponsored dental plan, compared to 40 percent of nonunion workers.

“The secret is out and more and more Maine workers are discovering that they have the collective power to improve their lives,” Phinney added. “Just in the past year, there have been union organizing efforts at health care providers, Portland Museum of Art, Planned Parenthood, the ACLU of Maine, Waterville KVCAP and other workplaces. In the era of COVID, more and more workers are understanding that the only way to guarantee safer conditions, health care, hazard pay and other benefits is by banding together and using their collective voice to demand them.”

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