.Labor Rebound: A new breed of organizers is leading the way

On Labor Day, conservative prognosticators will inevitably revel in their tired prediction about the demise of the U.S. union movement. While there may be a seeming kernel of truth in their negative statistical data—“organized labor only represents 6.4% of the private-sector workforce”—their misplaced reliance on gross numbers is misleading and doesn’t begin to recognize today’s unfolding story of a newly invigorated union movement.

After years of decline, labor is experiencing a resurgence on two fronts. The first is increasing militancy and resistance among workers already members of existing trade unions. Over the past year, discontent among tens of thousands of working-class Americans crested in a wave of strikes, walk-outs and protests as union represented workers flexed their muscles, confronting the owning class with ever more militant resistance.

The second front is a rapidly spreading movement fueled by youthful activists’ intent on organizing new sectors of the unorganized. The first nine months of this year saw a 58% increase in petitions for union elections, and the most recent Gallup poll found support for labor unions at its highest point since 1965, with 68% support! 

music in the park san jose
music in the park san jose

Today’s movement is being nourished by rebellious workers at places like Amazon, Starbucks, REI, Chipotle, Trader Joe’s and Apple (to name a few), with new organizing efforts popping up with regularity.

The new generation of youthful activists are fighting not just for better wages and working conditions, but are united in their common struggle for dignity and humane treatment on the job.

A young Starbucks organizer from the Boston area recently explained, “We’re creating a movement that is intersectional. We’re not just about wages and benefits; we are organizing to change the world. We are a social justice movement that advocates against the climate crisis, for gender affirming health care, against creeping fascism, and for the recognition of all personal and individual privacy rights, such as the freedom to love who you love, to marry who you marry and to have access to abortion. We unequivocally decry all forms of sexism and racism.” 

This younger generation is seeing its future and trying to do something positive about it.

On Labor Day, conservative prognosticators will inevitably revel in their tired prediction about the demise of the U.S. union movement. While there may be a seeming kernel of truth in their negative statistical data—“organized labor only represents 6.4% of the private-sector workforce”—their misplaced reliance on gross numbers is misleading and doesn’t begin to recognize today’s unfolding story of a newly invigorated union movement.

After years of decline, labor is experiencing a resurgence on two fronts. The first is increasing militancy and resistance among workers already members of existing trade unions. Over the past year, discontent among tens of thousands of working-class Americans crested in a wave of strikes, walk-outs and protests as union represented workers flexed their muscles, confronting the owning class with ever more militant resistance.

The second front is a rapidly spreading movement fueled by youthful activists’ intent on organizing new sectors of the unorganized. The first nine months of this year saw a 58% increase in petitions for union elections, and the most recent Gallup poll found support for labor unions at its highest point since 1965, with 68% support! 

Today’s movement is being nourished by rebellious workers at places like Amazon, Starbucks, REI, Chipotle, Trader Joe’s and Apple (to name a few), with new organizing efforts popping up with regularity.

The new generation of youthful activists are fighting not just for better wages and working conditions, but are united in their common struggle for dignity and humane treatment on the job.

A young Starbucks organizer from the Boston area recently explained, “We’re creating a movement that is intersectional. We’re not just about wages and benefits; we are organizing to change the world. We are a social justice movement that advocates against the climate crisis, for gender affirming health care, against creeping fascism, and for the recognition of all personal and individual privacy rights, such as the freedom to love who you love, to marry who you marry and to have access to abortion. We unequivocally decry all forms of sexism and racism.” 

This younger generation is seeing its future and trying to do something positive about it.

Jonathan Melrod’s new book, ‘Fighting Times: Organizing on the Front Lines of the Class War,’ will be published by PM Press on Sept. 15.

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