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Labor Union Membership Is At Historic Lows, But Is The Tide Turning?


This week, the results may be announced for one of the most consequential union elections in recent history. An Amazon warehouse with nearly 6,000 employees in Bessemer, Alabama, finished voting last month, and the final tally is expected within days.

Labor organizers have long sought to unionize Amazon, the country’s second-largest private employer.

But for years, Amazon has worked to stymie unions. In regard to the efforts in Alabama, the company reportedly hired anti-union consultants paying nearly $10,000 a day, while allegedly sending anti-union texts to workers and posting anti-union fliers in its bathrooms, among other tactics.

Labor unions are at a historic low. Participation in unions has shrunk to less than 11% last year, down from the peak of about 35% in the mid-1950s.

Nonetheless, 65% of Americans approve of unions, and there appears to be a newfound interest, even in the South, where only 5% of workers belong to a union. For example, workers at a major South Carolina’s newspaper, The State, announced their intent to form a union just last week.

We look at America’s complicated relationship with labor unions and why they might be gaining traction yet again.


Alina Selyukh, business correspondent for NPR

Robert Korstad, professor of public policy and history at Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy

Travis Bland, reporter for The State

Jesse Steinmetz is Producer of Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. Before joining WFAE in 2019, he was an intern at WNPR in Hartford, Connecticut and hosted a show at Eastern Connecticut State University.