April 28, 2018
"The purpose of unions is to give workers a collective voice in relation to their employers."
Ruth Milkman is a sociologist of labor and labor movements, and Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center and at the Joseph S. Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies. We examine the role of unions for workers, the main factors of de-unionization, and the potential leadership by millennials in this space.
It’s safer to speak up as a group
The purpose of unions is to give workers a collective voice in relation to their employers. They also negotiate contracts and collective bargaining agreements, and promote and defend workers’ concerns in the public and political spheres.
Factors that led to the decline of unionization
Employer opposition is at the heart of the de-unionization. They have successfully mounted a series of direct attacks against them, such as double breasting in the construction industry. Two other big factors are the decline of manufacturing and deregulation.
The time to engage is now
Many workers experience precarious labor conditions, such as in retail, where they often don’t know their schedule from week to week and they don’t know how many hours they will end up working. Teachers in non-union states are striking instead of collectively bargaining, which is more disruptive than organizing.