AUPE has steadily grown over the years, but overall union membership has been on the decline in North America. Decades of union-busting rhetoric, fueled by so-called bootstrap economics and entitlement culture, have clouded the realities of fair pay and equal opportunities for working people. This problem is not unique to Canada or the United States.
However, in 2023, an unprecedented outpouring of support for striking workers on social media galvanized many and spurred workers to organize their workplaces. Media outlets could not get enough, abuzz with the idea of a hot labour summer.
So, are unions in North America poised for a big resurgence in membership? Possibly.
Young workers are already fed up with the old boys’ club that run the economy and their relentless class warfare, while many older workers are anxiously watching politicians play with pension funds like they are trading cards.
Union-busting behavior has become part of the culture at giant companies like Amazon, Starbucks, and FedEx, not to mention public services and the governments that control them. Corporate playbooks have been written on how to sow distrust, abuse power, and ultimately break the union vote. But this past summer, when the United Auto Workers took to the picket lines and won historic wage increases, their struggle became a beacon of solidarity for the working class. Then UPS workers did it. Then workers at Kaiser Permanente did it. Then Hollywood writers and actors did it. The wins kept on coming.
There is no longer any doubt: big wins are possible at today's bargaining table. We must shift the narrative away from how bad things are to how good things could be.
In her book, “A Collective Bargain: Unions, Organizing and the Fight for Democracy,” long-time labour strategist Jane McAlevey argues that democratic organization is the only solution to the inherent power imbalance of the employer-worker relationship.
McAlevey analyzes recent organizing victories in hospitals, school, and technology firms. She believes these campaigns provide the blueprints (and inspiration) all workers need to win, even when the fight feels impossible.
"A Collective Bargain” may remind you of that nervous energy you felt at your first union meeting—like not knowing who those people with microphones are or what their titles mean. But McAlevey’s book is also filled with hope: hope that power and control can ultimately be wrestled back from the employers who deliberately undermined democracy and bully their workers in broad daylight.
If it's been a while since you've taken Intro to the Union, this book is for you. If you've got a fire in your belly that you want to harness and organize your workplace for the first time, this book is for you. If you've always thought unions do nothing but lose, this book is for you.