Ask us anything about unions

Minneapolis teachers have just reached a new contract after striking for nearly three weeks and last Friday the city of Minneapolis reached a new labor agreement with the Minneapolis police union. Unions are back in the news and perhaps gaining wider support.

At the height of the 1950s, about a third of all American workers were unionized. Since then, membership has declined. Minnesota still has a high number of unionized workers compared to most other states — about 17% of workers in the state are unionized compared to the national average of 9%.

Despite low numbers, there is renewed interest in unions as workers battered by the pandemic and emboldened by a tight labor market seek more control over their working lives.

A 2021 Gallup poll found that 68% of Americans approved of unions, more than at any point since the mid-1960s. Nationwide, Starbucks workers held several successful union votes and this week, Amazon workers in New York vote on whether to become Amazon’s first unionized warehouse.

Union interest also extends to white-collar jobs. In Minnesota, hospital mental health workers and museum workers are among the latest to unionize.

Host Angela Davis interviews a labor historian and labor economist about the history and work of unions.

Guests:

  • William P. Jones is a professor of history at the University of Minnesota. He studies and writes about organized labor, unions, racial inequality, and the history of the civil rights movement.

  • Aaron Sojourner is an associate professor at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota and focuses on labor, education, and social policy. He also served as a senior economist for work on the Council of Economic Advisers to the US President (CEA) for Presidents Obama and Trump.

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