Maine’s unionized workforce increased about 19 percent in 2020 amid a harsh economic contraction triggered by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Membership in labor unions increased from roughly 69,000 workers in 2019 to 82,000 in 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics.

About 15 percent of the state’s workforce belonged to unions in 2020, according to bureau data, more than 4 percentage points higher than the national average.

“More and more Maine workers are organizing and fighting for better wages, working conditions, safety on the job and democracy in the workplace,” Maine AFL-CIO President Cynthia Phinney said in a news release.

The increase in union membership can be attributed to adding members in existing union shops, new union organizing and increased hiring in essential unionized sectors, the AFL-CIO said.

“The pandemic has reminded all of us that working people are essential,” Phinney said. “The best way for essential workers to have safe workplaces, respect and work and good jobs is by joining together with co-workers in a union.”

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