As 2023 comes to an end, I’d like to offer a few thoughts on where we’ve been, where we are, and what may lie ahead for our Wisconsin labor movement. Recent history has demonstrated the dangers of chasing profits by outsourcing our jobs and domestic supply chains. A resilient and sustainable U.S. economy must be driven by American workers. The simple truth is that our prosperity as a nation rests on good union jobs.
That's a message that’s clearly being heard. Support for organized labor is at historic highs, with 67% of Americans supporting unions and a majority wanting unions to have greater influence. In a sign of a bright future for our labor movement, young people are even more supportive, with a recent poll finding 88% of Americans under 30 view unions favorably.
Like much of the rest of our country, Wisconsin has seen an upsurge in union activism. In increasing numbers, workers are saying “union yes”, often in sectors people thought could never be organized. In 2022, nationwide NLRB petitions shot up 53% and this year saw the trend continue with another 3% increase. Similarly, workers already in unions demonstrated their willingness to stand together and fight for fair working conditions and compensation. This year, nearly eight times the number of workers participated in strikes compared to the same period in 2021, and nearly one million workers saw double-digit raises.
Of course, challenges remain. Plant closures at Master Lock and Stellantis Mopar in Bay View remind us that our fight for economic justice goes on. Our union brothers and sisters at these workplaces can count on our solidarity in this difficult time. And in the emerging gig economy, some employers have tried to blur the definition of employee, denying workers our rights by misclassifying us as independent contractors. We are pushing back to ensure these companies live up to their responsibilities to the workers who make them successful.
In the ongoing struggle for workers’ rights, few things are more consequential than the political environment. There is good news on that front as well. We all remember the inspiring action of President Joe Biden walking the picket line with striking UAW workers.
Here in Wisconsin, the historic election of Justice Janet Protasiewicz broke the stranglehold extremist, anti-worker justices had on our state Supreme Court. As a result, Wisconsinites may finally get fair electoral maps that let voters select politicians rather than the other way around. The court will consider additional consequential cases in the coming months, including an attempt to throw out Act 10 brought by unions representing public sector workers.
Brothers and sisters, we can look back on 2023 with pride and look forward to 2024 with hope and confidence. As always, we have an important role to play. As Martin Luther King observed, the labor movement is the principal force that transforms misery and despair into hope and progress.
On behalf of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, I want to thank you for your continued work in support of working people in our state. I hope you and your families take time to have a happy and healthy holiday season, and I look forward to standing with you in the new year as we continue our good fight in Wisconsin and beyond.
Stephanie Bloomingdale, President