After decades of decline, American unions are once again challenging employers and using strikes to fight for better contracts. For the first time in recent memory, unions are taking strong, militant stances — and seem to be making major gains as a result. But how should this moment be understood, and what does it signal about the future of organized labor in the United States? In an interview with HBR, former National Labor Relations Board member Sharon Block explains the significance of new leadership, the legal landscape, and what lessons companies should take from what’s happening right now.
Over the past few months, the United States has seemingly entered a new era for American unions. After decades of decline, major American unions — including the Teamsters, the United Automobile Workers, and the Writers Guild of America, and the Screen Actors Guild — have taken militant stances in contract negotiations. Thus far, two have chalked up considerable victories. This week, workers at Kaiser Permanente walked off the job in the largest strike of health care workers in U.S. history. All at once, it seems union power is on the rise again.