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The fall (and rise?) of unions in the US

We answered a viewer’s question about the decline of unionization.

Joss Fong is a founding member of the Vox video team and a producer focused on science and tech. She holds a master's degree in science, health, and environmental reporting from NYU.

“How come we’ve seen such a decline in unionization in the US?”

That’s the question we received from one of our viewers, Cameron, when we put out a call for topics to explain. It comes at an interesting time.

Earlier this year, the Amazon Labor Union won its first election at a large warehouse in New York and more than 200 Starbucks locations have voted to unionize since baristas in Buffalo broke the seal in December 2021. The National Labor Relations Board reports that petitions for union elections are up 56 percent this year, compared to 2021.

This level of energy and momentum in the labor movement is remarkable in light of the long, steep decline in union membership rates since the 1950s. Social science has limited tools for establishing what caused that decline, and different experts tend to emphasize different factors. But in the video above, we dig into a few key drivers of low union density in the US relative to other wealthy countries.

If you’re like Cameron and you have a big question about what’s happening in the world today, we’d like to help find your answer! Fill out our form and your question could be answered next:

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