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New Immigration Laws and Union Membership

Union membership has declined to 11.3% of the US workforce, down about 50% from 30 years ago. Public employees continue to remain unionized. In California, where we practice employment discrimination and wrongful termination law, approximately 30% of the public workforce is unionized. However, Latino union membership has increased by 21% over the last ten years, reflecting an increase in service jobs, mostly in health care and retail. Even more immigrants would join unions but for the fear of deportation. A leader in the organization of immigrants is the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), mainly in Houston and Los Angeles. Currently about 500,000 of SEIU’s 2.1 million members are Hispanic. A current effort is underway to unionize car wash workers. Many current workers do not get minimum wage (one employer trick is to start the clock only when the first car rolls through, not when the worker arrives), and are denied basic benefits such as clean drinking water.

California’s anti-discrimination laws (prohibiting employment and housing discrimination based on age, sex, gender identification, physical or mental disabilities, race and national origin are available to union members in most cases. The critical inquiry is whether the collective bargaining agreement or memorandum of understanding (a fancy word for public collective bargaining agreements) must be consulted or relied upon in order to determine the union member’s rights. Ordinarily, statutory violations are “free standing” and do not require interpretation of the union agreement.

As always, please consider this blog educational advise only. Legal advise can be given only by an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction and familiar with the facts of your case. We practice on behalf of employees throughout California.