Opinion | From Amazon to Starbucks, America Is Unionizing. Will Politics Catch Up?

A debate on how unions build power today and whether politicians — particularly Democrats — are still behind them.

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From Amazon and Starbucks to large media companies, unionization has become a siren call for workers — white- and blue-collar — fighting for rights and fair wages. But in 2022, after two years of a pandemic, how have our ideas about unions changed? And are Democrats, the so-called party of the unions, still allies in the fight for workers’ rights?

On today’s episode of “The Argument,” Jane Coaston asks two leading labor voices in America to debate the current role of unions, how the watershed vote at an Amazon warehouse is changing their work and whether Democrats have failed workers.

[You can listen to this episode of “The Argument” on Apple, Spotify or Google or wherever you get your podcasts.]

Liz Shuler is the president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. Jane McAlevey is an organizer and a campaign strategist and the author of the recent book “A Collective Bargain: Unions, Organizing and the Fight for Democracy.”

“People used to say, ‘It’s the economy, stupid.’ It’s the base, stupid, in my argument,” McAlevey says, emphasizing the need for unions and large organizations like the A.F.L.-C.I.O. to learn from Amazon and focus on bringing more workers into the fold. “If we don’t return to bottom-up organizing, we’re simply not going to have the political muscle to force Democrats and Republicans to do that which they must: to honor the essential workers coming out of this pandemic.”

What’s your take on unions? How do you think unions should capitalize on this moment? We want to hear from you. Share your thoughts in the comments on this page once you’ve listened to the debate.

Mentioned in this episode:

“Raising Expectations (and Raising Hell)” by Jane McAlevey

“The People, United, Must Fight Hard or Be Defeated” by Binyamin Appelbaum in The New York Times

(A full transcript of the episode will be available midday on the Times website.)

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“The Argument” is produced by Phoebe Lett, Elisa Gutierrez and Vishakha Darbha. Edited by Alison Bruzek and Anabel Bacon. With original music by Isaac Jones and Pat McCusker. Mixing by Pat McCusker. Fact-checking by Kate Sinclair and Mary Marge Locker. Audience strategy by Shannon Busta with editorial support from Kristina Samulewski. Our executive producer is Irene Noguchi.

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