On May 4, 1886, thousands of workers rallied together in Chicago’s Haymarket Square to campaign for an eight-hour workday—initiating a tradition of protest for some of the most basic human rights. That was formalized on May 1, 1890, when the first International Workers’ Day was celebrated around the world. But that was then. In the decades since, collective bargaining rights have been under unending attack and it is no accident that union density in the United States has declined to near single digits.In the last year, however, American workers have loudly and clearly said, “Enough!” Teachers, musicians, actors, hotel workers, grocery store employees, and many others have gone on strike—the most workers to have walked off the job than in any year since 1986. Crucially, these strikers won most of their key demands. Just as crucially, the disproportionately young workers in hitherto largely unorganized industries—digital media journalists, graduate student workers, and nonprofit employees—have been successfully winning union representation, too. Indeed, millennials’ positive attitude toward unions is driving much of the new wave of organizing. According to Gallup, support for labor unions is at a 15-year high, with 65 percent of workers under 35 approving of labor unions. In 2017, 76 percent of new union members—almost 200,000 workers—were under 35 years old.
Excerpted from The American Prospect; by Katie Barrows, Ethan Miller and Kayla Blado, officers of the Nonprofit Professional Employees Union (NPEU). AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews courtesy The American Prospect