This is the most exciting — and promising — moment for the nation’s labor movement in decades thanks to the landmark union victories at Starbucks and Amazon, as well as the spread of union drives to well-known companies like Trader Joe’s and Apple. To find similar excitement about unions, one would have to go back to the 1930s and the victorious Flint Sit-Down strike against General Motors, which inspired a tremendous wave of strikes and union drives across the U.S.
What has made this moment even more promising for labor is the huge enthusiasm that many young workers are showing toward unions, including museum workers, nurses, journalists and graduate students, among them the 17,000 University of California grad student researchers who won union recognition in December. Two recent surveys also hold promise for labor: 74% of workers 18 to 24 say they would vote to join a union if they could, and a Gallup poll found that 77% of Americans 18 to 34 approve of unions.
Propelled by this youthful excitement, the Starbucks union drive has gone from workers at a single Starbucks in Buffalo, N.Y., voting to unionize in December to 75 Starbucks unionized today, with workers at nearly 200 more petitioning for unionization votes. One measure of this youth-driven enthusiasm: John Logan, a labor studies professor at San Francisco State, says anti-union consultants often boast that they defeat unions 95% of the time in union votes, but Starbucks baristas have voted to unionize 90% of the time — winning 75 of 84 union elections.
Op-Ed: A new generation is reviving unions. The old guard could help