Why millennials aren't joining unions

Aug 4, 2014

Ray Holman of UAW Local 6000 says the ruling is a victory for state employees.
Credit UAW

In the 1970s, at the height of its power, the United Auto Workers had more than 1.5 million members. Today it has fewer than 400,000. Some of the reasons behind that include an aging union workforce.

But it’s not just the UAW. As many in the labor movement turn to retirement, unions are looking to rebuild and reinvent with younger members.

Roland Zullo is with the Institute for Research on Labor, Employment and the Economy at the University of Michigan.

Zullo said that job insecurity is the main reason why young people are not ready to join unions.

“Here in the Midwest, we’ve lost half of our manufacturing employment in the past decade. In that context, it’s hard to take the risk of joining the union and angering the boss who uses the threat as a way to discourage unionization, such as job dislocation and factory shutdown.”

Zullo added that it’s important for retirees to stay connected, because they are the ones who can teach the younger generation many lessons about union movements. 

* Listen to our conversations with Roland Zullo above.