Union membership on rise, especially among younger workers

It has been a good year for union membership. By many estimates, unions added nearly 250,000 members.
Published: Sep. 4, 2023 at 7:11 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - It has been a good year for union membership.

By many estimates, unions added nearly 250,000 members.

If UAW strikes next week against the major automakers, it will put nearly a half million union members on the picket lines showing that workers don’t fear demanding better pay and working conditions.

It was a concerted effort by union organizers to use newfound power to prevent a strike against UPS two weeks ago but still achieve what they wanted in contract negotiations.

And it wasn’t all about wages.

“It was a wide range of things,” said 21-year Teamster member Michael Sanchez. “Safety, heat-related safety.”

Sanchez went on to say “for example, air conditioning in trucks. That was huge, huge. We were fighting for that for a long time we got that in the last contract.”

That was just some of the conversations union members discussed at the 25th annual Labor Day picnic at Kennedy Park on Monday.

In the past, union members didn’t have much forward movement, so the annual picnic was about how to minimize losses.

This year, it was more about how to maintain the momentum.

It appears that momentum may be in the hands of the younger generations who were not around when union power was in its heyday.

“First-time entry workers, think about our generational gaps here, millennials, Gen Z, they have over 80% in support of joining a labor union if they have the ability to do so,” said union organizer Ryan Kelly.

Having the ability is the challenge for today’s union leadership. The workplace has changed, giving way to a more service-oriented workplace. The younger generation sees what collective bargaining can do for them and many like what they see.

“When Roe v Wade fell, we saw unions across the country start negotiating and bargaining over reproductive rights with their employers,” Kelly said. “And those are legally binding items to fight for in contracts.”

Many unions are embracing a four-day work week and others universal health care. Those may become more commonplace in the future, giving potential members reasons to join.

Still, only 10% of the workforce is unionized.