Union membership good for Latino community

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To get a stake in America’s economy and a better life for themselves and their families, Latinos need the freedom to form unions and bargain—which means they need the Employee Free Choice Act.

That’s the conclusion of a new article by Gabriela Lemus, executive director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), a national organization for Latino working families and an AFL-CIO constituency group. LCLAA has joined other prominent voices in the Latino community, including the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the National Latino Congreso, in supporting the Employee Free Choice Act. Lemus says Latinos should “wholeheartedly support” the Employee Free Choice Act.

Lemus says the union advantages of better health care, pensions and wages—Latino union members make 43 percent higher median wages than Latinos who don’t have a union—are critical to giving this community a shot at being part of a strong middle class. The demographics of the Latino community, Lemus says, make union membership especially helpful to Latinos.

In particular, young men and women just entering the work world benefit from protections that collective bargaining provides.

Latinos are among the youngest population group in the United States. Their median age is 25.8 years—more than 10 years younger than that for the U.S. population as a whole…union membership would assist them not just in earning a livable wage. It could move many into jobs where they learn more skills, take on greater responsibilities and gain added benefits.

Lemus says that as the Latino population reaches retirement, union membership will help ensure a decent standard of living after retirement because of the greater access to pensions and the increased ability to save for retirement that come with a union contract.

It’s not just individuals who benefit, Lemus says. The communities where Latinos live and work stand to gain from greater access to union membership.

Where unions are stronger, not only are wages higher and health insurance more accessible; there are numerous other benefits. In states with higher union density, it is more likely that poverty will be reduced. There will be more homeowners than renter and better schools because there is greater public education spending per pupil. The three are inter-related.

LCLAA has a fact sheet available about the Latino population and union membership. The Employee Free Choice Act is critical to restore the freedom to form unions, and that really matters to working men and women, including the Latino community.