By Freya-Victoria Sansing, age 11
For companies all over the world, unions have been controversial as long as they have existed. According to Labor Department data, in 2022 the percentage of union memberships went down significantly, yet support for unions is at an all-time high. An August Gallup poll discovered that 71% of Americans support unions, the highest percentage in 57 years.
But what is a union? A union is a group of workers that come together to protect each other’s rights. Unions fight to make work environments fair and uphold many fundamental workers’ rights. For instance, it is significantly harder for an employer to fire a union member, because the employer must have a justifiable reason. Through collective bargaining, union members have higher chances of attaining raises and better working conditions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers without union representation earn just 85% of what unionized workers earn each week.
So what explains this drop in union membership, despite all the benefits and widespread support of unions? Union membership has seen steady declines for years due to anti-organizing efforts by large corporations and Republican lawmakers. High union dues (which cover the costs of a union) also often put workers off.
Despite opposition from their employers, workers at companies like Starbucks, Amazon and Apple have all recently unionized. In a recent statement, Liz Shuler, president of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, said, “In 2022, we saw working people rising up despite often illegal opposition from companies that would rather pay union-busting firms millions than give workers a seat at the table.”
Despite all workers having the right under international labor standards to establish or join a union, according to the Global Rights Index, 115 out of 148 countries covered by the index were found to deny this right to certain workers. These workers were often migrant workers and temporary workers.