PORTLAND -- Union members from around Oregon attended a special Labor Day event at Oaks Park Monday to show thanks and let everyone know why unions matter.

Oregon is a very strong union state. Last year union membership accounted for nearly 16 percent of workers in Oregon, or about 240,000 people.

Across the nation, union memberships account for 11.3 percent of workers.

Oregon union leaders said their members face major challenges in fighting for higher wages and benefits in a recovering economy.

For the first time in six years because I got a great contract, I am going to be brought up to a living wage, said Laurann Kealiher, with Local 503, SEIU.

It's about jobs, it's about competition of low wage workers overseas, it's about bringing jobs back, it's about training, said Tom Leedham, Sec. Treasurer for Teamsters 206.

Union leaders said a big focus now has been working to bring back the middle class and showing strength in numbers.

Union membership dropped significantly across the country in 2006 during the Great Recession. The numbers started rebounding in 2008 and by 2009, Oregon reached a high point of 272 workers represented by unions.

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