There was a time when...
No question labor unions grew out of intense capitalism created by the upper 1% who tapped into the idea of squeezing every ounce of life out of a worker.
Working seven days a week, child labor, hardly bearable wages, poor working conditions, no preparedness for life after work, and threats - lots of threats - kept a lid on workers.
It made the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th century millionaires and built early America industry. Railroads used immigrants to death, coal miners dug their own graves and steel and automotive giants grabbed the brass ring of money, lots of money.
Finally workers became savvy and realized that organized thought led to power. Initially only a few, but the few grew into movements and industry began to shudder. Even early government support of industry began to subside as politicians realized that workers/unions translated into voter blocks.
Laws were devised to end child labor, union strength led to safety conditions and minimum wage standards. Even some women felt the wave of early union organizing.
Of course with power and money, unions went through stages of greed and corruption. Who can forget the Jimmy Hoffa/teamsters boondoggle.
Regardless, more rights, better wages grew as unions organized.
According to a piece on the History Channel, "The earliest recorded strike occurred in 1768 when New York journeymen tailors protested a wage reduction. The formation of the Federal Society of Journeymen Cordwainers (shoemakers) in Philadelphia in 1794 marks the beginning of sustained trade union organization among American workers.
From that time on, local craft unions proliferated in the cities, publishing lists of “prices” for their work, defending their trades against diluted and cheap labor and, increasingly, demanding a shorter workday in the face of the Industrial Revolution."
Columnist Jon Talton wrote in the Seattle Times: "Organized labor hit its zenith in the mid-1950s, when about 35 percent of the labor force was unionized. This came after legislation in the New Deal gave workers the right to collective bargaining and made it illegal for employers to interfere with unionization or coerce employees. It even came after the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, which reined in what many saw as abuses of power by big labor."
The past two years have seen Starbucks stores in upstate New York announce plans to unionize. Labor historian Ileen Devault wasn’t sure if the U.S. was seeing the start of a trend or just a tiny blip in the history of workers’ activism in the country. Alas, even with unionization, the Starbucks blip had little lasting effect.
The U.S. worker became anti, or bored with union topics. Now, only between 10-11% of workers in the U.S. are union members.
The recent writers and actors unions have languished in confusing strike conditions and purpose as the TV and movie industry deal with numerous artificial intelligence questions and ways we watch what we watch. Non-scripted shows, along with foreign input all but water down the current strike.
UPS workers, on the other hand, played their recent threats of a strike to the max in timing and fear of market loss.
The current automotive industry barks fears of total market confusion as their average $80,000 annual pay seems to lack a living wage. This, of course, is diluted by foreign auto makers with U.S. plants going strictly anti-union and fears.
The auto unions point out, rightly, that they had to retreat when GM and Chrysler needed government input to survive. Wages were cut, or became stagnate and benefits dwindled.
The auto industry for the Big 3 rebounded and company hierarchy saw their wages and bonuses fly off the charts. Now, auto makers say they will have to completely retool for a future of anti-fossil fuel futures.
As for the union members, they never saw the true benefit of the recovery and thus the strikes. The unions want a 40% increase in wages plus benefits.
Somewhere in the middle there will be an agreement, one neither side wins, or wants, but that is defined by the word settlement.
Life goes on...