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Association between perceived union connection and upper body musculoskeletal pains among unionized construction apprentices

Authors

  • Seung-Sup Kim MD, ScD,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, Washington, District of Columbia
    • Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, 2300 Eye Street, NW, Washington, DC 20037.
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  • Melissa J. Perry MHS, ScD,

    1. Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, Washington, District of Columbia
    2. Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts
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  • Cassandra A. Okechukwu MSN, ScD

    1. Department of Society, Human Development, and Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts
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  • Disclosure statement: The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Abstract

Background

Several studies show varying associations between unionization and workers' health and well-being. This study investigated the association between individual worker's perceived union connection and musculoskeletal pains (MSPs).

Methods

We conducted a cross-sectional survey of 1,757 unionized construction apprentices. Perceived union connection is a psychosocial scale measured by six questions that assessed individual worker's connection to their union (range 10–24) at unionized workplaces. We measured the prevalence of four MSPs (neck, shoulder, arm, and back pain) and difficulty in daily home activities, job activities, and sleeping caused by each of the four MSPs.

Results

We found that a one score increase in perceived union connection was associated with 5% decreased odds of reporting neck pain (OR: 0.95, 95% CI: 0.91–1.00) and back pain (OR: 0.95, 95% CI: 0.91–0.99) after adjusting for confounders including self-reported ergonomic strain. We also found significant associations between perceived union connection and MSPs causing difficulty in daily activities. For a one score increase in perceived union connection, the odds of reporting back pain causing difficulty in home activities, job activities, and sleeping was 9% (95% CI: 0.87–0.96), 8% (95% CI: 0.88–0.96), and 7% (95% CI: 0.89–0.98) lower, respectively.

Conclusions

Although our findings are limited by the cross-sectional nature of the data, these results suggest that workers' perceived union connection can vary even within unionized workplaces, and it may be associated with the prevalence of MSPs and MSPs causing difficulty in daily activities. Am. J. Ind. Med. 56:189–196, 2013. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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