The American Prospect: The Millennialization of American Labor

Labor News

AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews In recent years, disproportionately young workers in hitherto largely unorganized industries have been successfully winning union representation. Here, striking teaching assistants protest Columbia University's refusal to recognize their union in April 2018.

Reprinted from The American Prospect by Katie Barrows, Ethan Miller and Kayla Blado on May 1, 2019.

“On May 4, 1886, thousands of workers rallied together in Chicago’s Haymarket Square to campaign for an eight-hour workday—initiating a tradition of protest for some of the most basic human rights,” write Katie Barrows, Ethan Miller and Kayla Blado in The American Prospect. “That was formalized on May 1, 1890, when the first International Workers’ Day was celebrated around the world.

“In the 133 years since, workers and their unions have continued to fight for their rights—winning fights 80 years ago to establish the federal minimum wage, secure collective bargaining rights, and even raising wages for non-union workers by setting industry-wide standards. During the mid-20th century when union density was its strongest, unions reduced overall inequality.

“But that was then. In the decades since, collective bargaining rights have been under unending attack and it is no accident that union density in the United States has declined to near single digits. Up to 87 percent of private-sector employers fight their employees’ efforts to unionize, sometimes spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay “union-avoidance consultants” to bust the organizing drives.

“In the last year, however, American workers have loudly and clearly said, ‘Enough!’ Teachers, musicians,  actorshotel workersgrocery store employees, and many others have gone on strike—the most workers to have walked off the job than in any year since 1986. Crucially, these strikers won most of their key demands. …

American Prospect 5/1

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About Jeffrey Burman 5244 Articles
Jeff Burman served on the Guild’s Board of Directors from 1992 to 2019. He is now retired. He can be reached at

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