Kera Peterson: Unions are having a resurgence, and every member can be part of it

St. Paul Regional Labor Federation President Kera Peterson is pictured speaking at the 2022 MN AFL-CIO Convention.

At the AFL-CIO Convention last summer, the nation’s largest labor federation set an ambitious goal to bring 1 million new members into our unions over the next 10 years. Since then, the federation has made a strategic investment in creating the Center for Transformational Organizing (CTO), which will bring together a broad coalition of union members to work on movement-wide campaigns related to growing our movement.

The CTO is a key part of a renewed push by our labor federations – at both the national and the local level – to prioritize organizing in all our work. It’s never a bad time to organize in the workplace, but this is an opportunity unlike any we’ve seen in decades. Gallup polling last year found 71% of Americans approve of labor unions, the highest mark since 1965. A separate survey found 70% of “skilled and hourly workers” would join a union if given the opportunity. And broad majorities agree that the decline in union participation has been bad for working people. That’s a big reason why we recently saw Michigan become the first state ever to repeal its ‘right-to-work’ law.

Momentum is on our side. It’s critical that we, as a labor movement, take advantage of this moment and build worker power at scale. That means passing the PRO Act, which will restore workers’ right to join together and form a union – free from harassment and intimidation – and to bargain better wages, benefits and working conditions. The PRO Act would finally put teeth into our nation’s labor laws, stiffening penalties on bosses who threaten, retaliate against or fire workers who exercise their right to collective action. We’re taking action here in Minnesota, too, by lobbying in support of legislation that would ban captive audience meetings, in which bosses force their workers to listen to anti-union speech, intimidation and, too often, outright lies.

Even with the deck stacked against them, many Americans have succeeded in organizing their workplace in recent years, seizing this moment of labor resurgence to lock down a more powerful voice over their working conditions. Last month, baristas at a Starbucks in Sacramento became the 300th store to unionize with Workers United, and ice-cream scoopers at Ben & Jerry’s flagship store in Vermont announced their plans to form a union, “Scoopers United.” Bookstore clerks, craft beverage workers, and museum staff are also successfully organizing in sectors of the economy where unions have not traditionally had a presence.

Elsewhere, unions are organizing to increase workers’ representation and raise standards in industries like health care, construction and arts and entertainment. Over 2,000 Twin Cities health care workers have joined unions since 2001. Building Trades unions continue to shine a light on wage theft and other labor abuses that happen too frequently on local multifamily residential construction sites. And 45,000 workers at Delta Air Lines, which maintains a hub of operations at Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport, are engaged in the world’s largest private-sector union drive at any single company. That campaign held a rally here last month, which the Saint Paul Regional Labor Federation was proud to host at our union hall.

Our union family is positioned well for historic growth, but it won’t happen without all of us pulling together in solidarity. It won’t happen unless those of us doing our movement’s work on the local level take on the AFL-CIO’s challenge to put organizing at the center of all our work. That could mean talking to friends and family about the union advantage – higher wages, job security and better health and retirement benefits – or talking to your elected officials about the importance of strengthening labor laws. It also could mean showing up in solidarity with workers in an organizing or contract campaign. We’re posting updates and opportunities regularly on the Regional Labor Federation’s Facebook page. We all can play a part in this historic union resurgence. Together, we can meet the moment and revitalize our movement.

– Kera Peterson is president of the Saint Paul Regional Labor Federation, AFL-CIO. Learn more about the SPRLF and its work at


  1. Peter Molenaar says:


    Just a little comradely nudge here: I recommend you frequent for news from all over. You are a maker of the news, but nobody makes all of the news!

    Peter Molenaar (CPUSA)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: