R.I. Unions Gained Representation Of 6,000 New Workers In 2016By SCOTT MACKAY • 16 HOURS AGO
Organized labor has faced tough times in recent years as manufacturing has moved abroad, Republican governors and legislators have gone after public employee unions, and weak labor laws make union organizing more difficult.
But workers in some states, including Rhode Island, still value union representation, as new data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics show.
Unions gained about 6,000 workers in Rhode Island in 2016, according to the data. Among the union organizing victories were food services, where the United Food and Commercial Workers organized employees at Eastland Food Service and Summit Nursing Home. The Laborers International Union of North America organized dealers at the Twin River Casino.
As has been the case in other states, medical care workers have been a fertile ground for union organizing. In Rhode Island, the Service Employees International Union organized units at Butler Hospital and at Woman & Infants Hospital. The National Education – Rhode Island is now representing adjunct professors at the Community College of Rhode Island. United Nurses (UNAP) picked up several units at Kent Hospital and Teamsters Local 251 has organized employees at Elmwood Health Center and other venues and UniteHere organized the Renaissance Hotel in Providence after a long organizing drive.
Despite serious barriers to organizing bargaining units, AFL_CIO president George Nee says things are looking up for the union movement.
The federal data shows that the proportion of unionized workers in the Rhode Island workforce grew from 14.2 percent of employees in 2015 to 16.9 percent in 2016.Connecticut has the highest share of workers in unions in New England (18.4 percent), Massachusetts is at 12.9 percent, New Hampshire is at 11 percent, Maine at 13.5 percent and Vermont at 12.9 percent. Nationally, New York has the highest percentage of workers in unions at 25.2 percent of the workforce. Southern states have much lower union enrollment rates. South Carolina had just 2.6 percent of workers unionized, North Carolina is at 4.1 percent and Georgia is at 4.9 percent.