The Guardian

Can millennials save unions in America?

The US Supreme Court has just stripped back the power of organised labour still further, but millennials don’t care. In an era of inequality and frustration they are joining unions in unprecedented numbers
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 22: Construction workers and union members hold a rally in Columbus Circle, May 22, 2018 in New York City. On Monday, the Supreme Court delivered a 5-4 ruling stating that companies can use arbitration clauses in employee contracts to prohibit them from filing class-action lawsuits concerning workplace issues. Unions and workers' rights advocates are also awaiting an expected June ruling by the Supreme Court in the Janus v. AFSCME case, which could give government workers nationwide the choice of opting out of paying union fees even if they benefit from the union's contract negotiations.(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Last year Dae Dae Motley-Gibson was struggling. The 23-year-old was juggling an exhausting work schedule at her job in a kitchen at Newark airport, alongside parenting duties and a family medical crisis. She needed support. She found it in a union.

Young people like Motley-Gibson are starting their work lives at a time when activism has been mostly absent from low-wage industries. In the airline workforce, unions have long represented flight attendants and other professionals. But the labour movement hasn’t penetrated the precarious airport-catering sectors, staffed mostly by low-wage immigrants and people of colour.

Things began to stir at the Newark airport kitchen when the service workers’ union, Unite Here, recruited Motley-Gibson to help organise her colleagues to demand better working conditions. Last on behalf of 2,700 fellow catering workers at United Airlines kitchens around the country, calling for fair contracts and the right to form a union.

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