Immigrants flocking to trade unions

As membership drops overall, the percentage of union members with non-Danish backgrounds is growing

As workers nationwide prepare for today's International Workers' Day celebrations, numbers indicate that more and more non-Danes are joining unions.

In recent years, trade unions FOA and 3F have had a spike in the number of members with non-Danish backgrounds. While the total membership in LO-fagbevægelsen, the confederation of trade unions, is dropping, both FOA and 3F said that immigrants, especially those from non-Western countries, are joining in record numbers.

From 2006 until 2012, over 4,000 new immigrants joined FOA, while total membership was falling by more than 8,000 members.

The picture is the same in 3F, where over 10,000 non-ethnic Danish members have joined over the same period, while overall membership rolls were dropping by nearly 30,000 members.

3F spokesperson Per Christensen said that the increase was no accident.

“We have worked hard to organise these workers,” Christensen told Information newspaper.

He said that the workplace is changing, and that immigrants are taking the kinds of jobs that are traditionally represented by 3F.

Union researcher Laust Hawks Dahl said that it is important for these new workers to organise themselves as a hedge against potential abuse.

"If they are not organised, there is the risk of 'social dumping', where they work for unfair salaries and under poor conditions. The trade unions help protect against that,” Dahl told Information.

Dahl said that immigrants from eastern Europe, who tend to come and go, run a particular risk of being abused if they aren’t union members.