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Study: SoCal union jobs are disappearing

September 6, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Union members showed up in droves to a Labor Day breakfast at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles Monday morning. Many say they're trying to stay optimistic but realize they're facing an uphill battle when it comes to saving union jobs.The Labor Day event ended with a special mass with Archbishop Jose Gomez blessing workers. The mass focused on workers' rights - the very topic that kicked off the Labor Day breakfast hours earlier.

Five hundred union members attended the event, pledging to do whatever it takes to keep jobs in Los Angeles.

"We really need to send a voice that will represent the feelings of the working people," said Humberto Gomez with the Laborers International Union.

A banquet room full of workers listened as city leaders went over what it'll take to secure jobs. Together, unions pledged nearly 2,000 hours worth of volunteer time, campaigning for Democrats on the November ballot.

"We're going to do voter registration, and there are more working men than people who own businesses. We've got to win," said Carla Eastman, a union member.

The focus on unions comes as UCLA released a new study on jobs saying that union positions in the Los Angeles metro area are disappearing at a faster rate than anywhere else in the country.

"The State of the Unions in 2010: A Profile of Union Membership in Los Angeles, California and the Nation" found that unionization rates fell by a full percentage point in the five-county Los Angeles metro area, amounting to a larger margin compared to state and national levels.

The number of unionized workers in the private sector fell from 7.91 million in 2008-09 to 7.19 million in 2009-10. In the public sector, the number dropped from 7.86 million to 7.76 million.

The study examined numbers from July 2009 to June 2010, and along with the discovery that union jobs are down, researchers say that more layoffs are likely unless the federal government can loan California the money to help balance the budget.

Recent layoffs prompted mass protests in Century City, and workers at the Labor Day event said they need to get the message across that they deserve protection from party nominees this November.

"So many union jobs have been lost because of this recession, and quite frankly, I think if you have a union job, you can thank your lucky stars that you still have a job," said Gus Fanfassian of ATU Local 1700.

About 16.5 percent of the L.A. workforce is unionized. Numbers haven't reached such a low since 2007-08. Union members are hoping to rebound following the midterm elections.

City News Service contributed to this report.


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