Diversity has been an issue for the labor movement since its earliest days. Yes, perhaps in our history, Labor may have reflected certain unfortunate trends that were pervasive in the society as a whole, but more recently the labor movement is a unifying voice for equality, social justice and bringing diverse people together in common cause. Unions provide a forum for people of all communities to have a stronger, more unified voice — to help bring about positive change.

The American workforce overall is becoming increasingly diverse, and here in Greater Cincinnati, we’re no different. We recognize that it is more important than ever that labor not just be more inclusive, but be leaders in diversity and inclusion — for our good and the good of all working families. A diverse and inclusive labor movement is essential to connecting with and representing the workforce of the future, where women workers, workers of color, LGBT workers are not only our future but soon to be the majority.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2020, the traditional white worker force will make up a decreasing percentage of the overall workforce while African Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans are an increasing share. In addition, Women, who made up 48% of the workforce in 2012, will have a greater rate of growth than their male colleagues.

Thanks to research from the Pew Research Center, we know that this growing diversity in the overall workforce equates to positives gains for Labor in groups that are (1) more likely to hold a positive view of organized labor and are (2) more likely to become union members based on

  • African Americans, currently 11.7% of the workforce, constitute 14% of union membership nationally, and 69% of African Americans overall hold a very positive view toward unions compared with 51% for the population as a whole, making them nearly 20% more likely to join unions.
  • As with African Americans, Latinos hold a very positive view of unions, with 58% of Latinos expressing a positive view and they represent 14% of union members, up from 6% in 1983.
  • Due to a steady and significant growth in women membership in unions, 45% of union members are women, compared with 33% just 30 years ago. The Pew research found that women, too, hold positive views of unions (55% positive), making for even greater growth in that segment of the labor movement.
  • Finally, while still the lowest overall at 4.2%, over 60% of people under 30 years of age have very positive views of unions.

Current and ongoing efforts by unions to address issues of diversity, both in their roles as workplace representatives as well as within the structure and culture of their own organizations, reflect the best traditions of the past, illustrate an exciting and exhilarating willingness by many today to value, and respect the diversity of their memberships. It is Labor’s strength through numbers that leads the way with its position that fair  wages, seniority, due process and other negotiated provisions of employment apply equally to all represented members, and not just a small but powerful few. Labor is leading the way in the active pursuit of building stronger community ties across historical divides. Labor Unions are value-based organizations that believe deeply in worker dignity, safety, respect, fairness and ensuring that worker’ voices are at the table and part of decision-making. As we say, “Stronger Together!” Now we are walking the talk, and we are indeed stronger together.

Yours in Solidarity!

Bill Froehle, President

Cincinnati AFL-CIO Labor Council