Unions gathering wins as the movement gathers steam for the first time in decades

Published: Sep. 26, 2023 at 9:23 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - With the Hollywood writer’s strike now over, unions have notched two big wins in what the unions call Hot Strike Summer.

The first was a settlement with UPS before the workers walked the picket lines, but the Teamsters had been preparing for a strike for months.

The big two left to settle are the Screen Actors Guild and the United Auto Workers. If they settle soon, they will combine to be the biggest union wins in decades and foretell a change in union fortunes.

“Generationally, those of us who experienced strong unions have been watching those rights be eroded for most our lives,” said union organizer Paul Stapleton-Smith. “Now, the winds have shifted.”

According to a recent Pew Research poll, public support for unions is at a fifty-year high, with nearly 60% supporting unionization.

“That shift is important for all young workers who haven’t grown up with unions and the protections of higher wages and better benefits,” Stapleton Smith said. “The fair fruits of their labor.”

Unions represent only 11% of American workers, down from 20% 40 years ago. Organized labor added 250,000 new workers to its 16 million strong membership in 2022 but still lost ground. Their share of the workforce dropped by two-tenths of a percent.

But now there’s a President in the White House who supports unions. President Joe Biden became the first President to walk the picket lines with organized labor when he joined the United Auto Workers in Michigan.

But interest in unions also tracks with the economy.

“All of us who work for a living, have families that work for a , are finding it harder to buy homes, harder to pay rent, harder to put food on the table and lord knows, harder to pay for medical care,” Stapleton Smith said.

Unions made many concessions to companies and corporations in order to help their bottom lines following the Great Recession. Now that corporations are making record profits, the unions are asking for some of those concessions.

Four years ago, copper workers walked the picket lines in Tucson against Asarco, a strike that didn’t generate any big wins and ended with a whimper.

“I do suspect that if the Asarco strike was to start today, we would have a significantly different outcome,” he said. “Justice doesn’t happen overnight, we have to fight for that, right.”

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