PROTEC17 grew its membership again in 2021! With public approval of unions being at an all time high, this growth trend mirrors the national wave of workers coming together to advocate for better economic security, health protections, and a say in the decisions that impact their careers and lives. From organizing baristas at Starbucks (see story on p. 6), to workers at Nabisco and Kelloggs on strike last fall,  American workers are gaining significant momentum to create positive change in their working lives through the power of unions.  

In Washington state last year, union density increased to 19%, up from 17.4% in 2020. In Oregon, density rose 1.6% in 2021 to reach 17.8%. Washington and Oregon rank third and fourth, respectively, after Hawaii and New York, as the states with the highest union membership. 

Despite the gains in the Pacific Northwest, the national density rates declined slightly in 2021, in large part due to labor laws that favor the employer over the employee in unionization efforts. Unions, worker-friendly legislators, and the Biden administration continue to push the ‘Build Back Better’ Act and other policy changes at the federal level that would create stronger protections for unionized and unionizing workers.

New PROTEC17 Classifications

In 2021, PROTEC17 grew its strength, adding nearly 275 workers in 20 newly-represented classifications to our member-powered union. This follows growth in 2020 where over 200 members in 14 new classifications organized into PROTEC17. 

As in 2020, many of our organizing campaigns took place within the City of Seattle, but we also welcomed members in new classifications from King County, the City of Portland, and the City of Tacoma. Additionally, new members at the Port of Seattle – a new employer for PROTEC17 featured in the last issue of Insight – joined in 2021 as well. From Paralegals and Strategic Advisors, to Victim Advocates and Business Contract Specialists, working professionals know the value of a union, and want to be a part of the PROTEC17 family.

The largest group to sign cards with PROTEC17 last year was the Planning and Development Specialists Seniors classifications at the City of Seattle, adding 59 newly represented positions in various departments across the City to our union. 

In Oregon, 15 Capital Project Manager (CPM) II’s joined their fellow PROTEC17 CPM I’s by securing union representation. This was important to ensure that those workers being promoted maintained their hard-fought union benefits. They are currently bargaining their new contract.

Because of our organizing momentum, we’ve already had several other groups reach out to organize in 2022. Hearing from current union members is an effective way to spread the word! If you know of colleagues in non-union positions who want to join PROTEC17 and you want to help, please reach out to us at
. We love welcoming new members to our union! 

New Hire Orientations

Another pivotal way that our membership grows is when newly-hired employees sign a membership card when they start in their PROTEC17-represented positions. 

During the pandemic, many of the new employee orientations were put on pause, or switched to virtual, making it more challenging to connect with new hires. However, in 2021, we launched our own union welcome meetings where new hires can meet with PROTEC17 staff and members to learn more about our union, have their questions answered, and get help with their membership forms.  

The first welcome meetings at King County and the City of Seattle were such a success that they are now being offered for new hires at the Washington State Department of Transportation, the City of Portland, Spokane County, and Skagit County, and they are in development for the Washington State Patrol and the Department of Licensing.  

Through these welcome meetings and direct outreach, over 900 new hires decided to join our union in 2021. If you are interested in helping greet potential new members in these welcome meetings and sharing your experience with being part of a union, please reach out to your Union Representative. 

Union Building

In addition to growth organizing efforts and our welcome meetings for new hires, PROTEC17 is strengthening our union through member-leader development programs. 

In 2021, over 50 members were trained as new Union Stewards through a series of one-hour virtual trainings. In 2022, in addition to continuing our popular, one-hour virtual leadership workshops, we hope to schedule some in-person Steward trainings once it is safe to do so – stay tuned! 

Member-leaders also attended other trainings and programs last year with the aim of strengthening our union, including: Secrets of a Successful Organizer, hosted by Labor Notes; and a series of trainings on Race and Labor that we put on in partnership with the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO.

Growing our membership and developing and training member leaders were two of the three priorities set by members in PROTEC17’s 2020-2022 Strategic Plan, alongside elevating race and social justice inititatives. With the progress we’ve made in 2021, we’re well on our way to reaching these goals.