Rochester, N.Y. – Rochester labor unions marched in the annual Labor Day parade in downtown Rochester. Many workers expressed concern about the declining labor movement.
In 1997, 19 percent of Rochester workers were in a union, including 12 percent of the private workforce. In 2011, 13 percent of local workers were in a union. Only 3 percent of private sector workers were unionized. The figures come from unionstats.com.
“It’s scary. If we lose the unions we’re going to lose any kind of opportunity to be able to get a fair job at a fair wage,” said Monica Geraci, a member of CSEA.
“If they got rid of unions, it would be the super rich and the poor and that’s all it would be,” said Tom Mairs, a member of the Carpenters Union.
The entire Rochester workforce has struggled since the recession hit. Unemployment is above 8 percent. Wages have fallen about 7 percent since 2008, with the average worker bringing home $53 less a week. Weekly wages might be creeping up, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics report they went up .7 percent between July 2011 and July 2012.
Fifteen percent of Monroe County residents live in poverty, according to the census, up four percentage points since 2000. Median household income here neared $50,000 in 2010, but if it had kept pace with inflation, it would be closer to $58,000 or $59,000.
“As union density has fallen, they’ve taken our pensions, they’ve outsourced our jobs and our wages have been stagnant for almost 30 years,” said union activist Jim Bertolone.
“If it wasn’t for my union I wouldn’t have anybody fighting for me,” said Sonia Holland of United Auto Workers.