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.
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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