I grew up in a union family, as did many of my friends. During contract time I remember the topics being discussed were regarding safety issues in the workplace environment, seniority, benefits and wage disparities. Today, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, the majority of all new union members are 35 or younger. It seems that our new generation of workers glamorize the idea of collective bargaining. The new era of management, for better or worse, is unaware of labor movements of the past. Union organizers are using this to their advantage. Organizational leaders are often unaware of the effect labor unions have on business and culture thus missing the indications of a vulnerable workforce.
Our new generation of employees wants to believe unions are there to help them. A study by the Department for Professional Employees of the AFL-CIO revealed that younger professionals, in contrast to their older colleagues, seek work life balance, peaceful work environment, and the opportunity to advance. Their perception of collective bargaining is romanticized and used as a way of promoting social justice and equality in the workplace. A Glassdoor/Harris Poll survey revealed that 75% of millennials expect their employers to stand up for social issues and topics they are passionate about. Why wouldn’t they? Didn’t every team receive a trophy? Wasn’t the score of the game tied? Companies are left with the opportunity to leverage those voices for fair labor practices and social equality. Employees currently have many social justice rights and most companies have Corporate Social Responsibility compliance mechanisms around this area in place. Therefore, the need for organizing for these rights isn’t necessary.
As I think back and remember what I heard as a child, my father was fighting for job protection, medical benefits, job security and fair wages. Ultimately, he was trying to raise a family under different times. Something was wrong with our culture. This was what drove people to unions. Today, workplaces seem to have forgotten what led those organizing drives. These things continue to make organizations a target today. Now add social justice causes and the union movement has been reborn.