Do union members assert their rights more?

Unions have helped secure hazard pay, health and safety protections, and support for laid-off workers in the pandemic.

Unionized workers are more likely to assert their right to a safe workplace, such as taking actions such as filing OSHA complaints, according to a study published in September 2020. An analysis of OSHA complaints showed that some high-risk industries with historically low unionization rates, such as agriculture, had relatively few complaints during the pandemic, from March 17, 2020, to May 21, 2021.

In California, unions have played an active role in the reopening process. UNITE HERE Local 11 helped push through a right-to-return measure that required hotels to offer jobs back to workers laid off during the pandemic. The law was aimed at helping an estimated 700,000 housekeepers, cooks, waiters and bartenders.

Labor has also been vocal around employer-mandated vaccine requirements. The California Teachers Association, for example, is supportive of the vaccine but initially didn’t endorse a vaccine mandate on public school teachers. Meanwhile, the union representing prison guards vowed to fight a state order requiring all employees working at health care facilities to be vaccinated.

-Melissa Montalvo