Apr 4, 2023
Most people that we know didn’t grow up thinking about or knowing people who were involved in unions. Us too – until Sara married a union man. And it got us thinking… how have unions impacted all of our lives? Turns out, quite a lot.
Here’s one way: the length of the typical workday. Thank unions for 8 hours – because that didn’t just magically happen out of the goodwill of employers. Unions campaigned for over 70 years to move the average workweek from 100 hours per week (!!) down to 40. At one stage, back in the 1950s, nearly one in three workers were in unions, and they played a HUGE role in reducing income inequality and boosting wages. Done right, unions are a public good – they provide benefits for all of society, so basically are the underpinning of a democracy and economy that works for most people.
But here we are today in 2023. You have probably heard about the Fight for 15, to get $15/hour to be the minimum wage for folks in the fast food industry. You may be seeing headlines of workers starting unions at Starbucks, Amazon, Apple, and maybe you even know some folks who are involved. Support for labor unions in the U.S. is currently at a 57-year high, where 71% of Americans approve, but participation is at a record LOW, where only just over 10% (about 14 million American workers) are actually part of a union. Join us as we dive into understanding this critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to shaping not just corporate but our country’s policies and the perpetuation of this growing inequality - and yep, it’s not surprising, but there’s a racial component to this too.
What to listen for:
What a labor union is
The example of the average hours in a workweek, and how unions worked to pressure both governments and companies to lower the number of hours expected
Details on the Pullman Porters, and the first-ever agreement between an all-Black union (the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) and a major US company
How companies drove a wedge between workers based on race, which has corresponded with a decrease in union participation by workers in this country
Why we think unions play an integral role in lessening inequality
and supporting ALL of us.