Romel Tamez has never worked for a union, and neither has anyone in his family.
But the 22-year-old is helping push an organizing effort in Houston, where he’s a warehouse agent for a United Airlines catering unit. About 2,700 United employees, including 800 in Houston, will start voting this month on whether to join the Unite Here union.
“It’s not really a hard sell,” said Tamez, who earns $11.80 an hour and was scheduled to work all three days over the Labor Day weekend. “It’s apparent there are problems.”
The catering workers want improvements in safety, job protection, pay and benefits. And unions have a track record of delivering on those.
In most occupations, union membership translates into higher pay. Union workers are more likely to be offered medical coverage, retirement plans, life insurance and paid sick days. They often have more job security, thanks to seniority rules and outsourcing restrictions.
The rub is that union jobs are relatively rare, especially in Texas. Fewer than 5 percent of workers in the state are union members, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nationwide, the union rate is twice as high. And it’s higher still in many states, including New York, California, Illinois and Ohio.
Union opponents are quick to note that those states often lag in job growth while low-union states are big job creators.
The share of workers in unions has been declining for decades. But there are signs of a revival, from teacher protests in several conservative states to Missouri voters overwhelmingly rejecting a right-to-work law last month. Even Texas added 81,000 union members
last year, the highest gain in at least three decades.
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