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60 Million Americans Want To Join A Union But Can’t

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Workers know they enjoy more influence, more benefits, and more stability when they are part of a union.

Amidst America’s union resurgence, a stark disconnect is coming into focus: while unions enjoy their highest approval ratings in decades, the percentage of unionized workers is declining. The gap between worker desire and actual union membership underscores the challenges posed by entrenched opposition from anti-union forces and unfair legislation. Despite the clear benefits of union membership, the path to unionization is fraught with obstacles, leaving millions of workers on the sidelines.

Why Americans Want Union Representation

The allure of unions is no mystery. Union members don’t just enjoy a 13.5% wage bump over their nonunion peers; they also gain access to essential benefits—from health care to pensions and more. In New York City’s construction industry, union workers also receive rigorous training to keep them safe, at the pinnacle of their trades, and on a path to the middle class.

What’s Holding Workers Back?

It’s not a lack of desire. When Americans were asked if they would vote to unionize their workplace, 48% said yes. This translates to over 60 million workers who want union representation, but are effectively locked out. This staggering gap is the result of employer resistance, legal loopholes ripe for exploitation, and legislative changes that have crippled unions. Employers, for instance, are pouring upwards of $400 million a year into anti-union campaigns, with Amazon and Starbucks' recent union-busting sagas demonstrating the lengths some will go to keep unions at bay.

Right to work laws are also a significant barrier— states with such laws on the books have significantly less union membership. In New York City, construction unions face similar hurdles. For example, rampant misclassification of workers by non-union firms goes largely unpunished, allowing them to artificially lower their bids to cut unions out.

Despite recent gains like the passage of the Wage Theft Accountability Act, New York City still must do more to level the playing field and give unionized construction workers a fair shot.

A Call To Action

The need for a policy overhaul could not be clearer. At the national level, The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act and the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act could go a long way towards fortifying workers' rights to band together and bargain collectively. On the state level, dismantling "right-to-work" laws, as Michigan boldly did in 2023, is another critical step in the 28 states that still have these laws on the books. Despite recent gains like the passage of the Wage Theft Accountability Act, New York City still must do more to level the playing field and give unionized construction workers a fair shot.

If you are shopping for real estate in New York City, you can do your part by asking your realtor to show union-built buildings. Doing so will ensure you get the highest quality construction and support workers everywhere.

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Mark Colangelo is a writer and blogger.

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