The Good Fight – Millennials: The Next Generation of Labor

This is part of a series highlighting the efforts of organized labor and featured in Labor 411’s print directories. Click here to order your copy and support Labor 411!

The future of organized labor rests solidly on the shoulders of the next generation, and even in a post-Janus era, the signs are excellent that millennials are ready to grab the torch from their Gen-Y brothers and sisters and break into a sprint.

In 2017, the largest gains in union membership were for workers aged 34 and under. Unions gained 262,000 new members, 198,000 of them under 35. To some extent, this is not surprising considering that data from a recent Pew survey found that 68 percent of people aged 18 to 29 have a favorable view of unions.

The reasons for the surge in millennial engagement are not difficult to understand. Researchers point to increases in part-time and contract work and automation while wages stay largely stagnant. Younger workers view banding together against management as a necessity. Even before they enter the professional ranks, millennials are getting their first experience with collective bargaining as graduate students at universities across the country are demanding their rights as legitimate employees.

In addition to asserting their clout within the world of organized labor, young workers have been equally proactive within protest movements such as Occupy, the Fight for 15, and #MeToo. As the AFL-CIO’s Liz Schuler told the Guardian, “The millennial and Gen Z generations are more civic minded and acutely in tune with the power of collective action. A union card helps them leverage their power.”

And in a February article, the Nation rather boldly proclaimed “Millennials are keeping unions alive.” Who are we to argue?

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