May 25, 2022

Celebrating and commemorating labor history in May

Author: Kara Smith
Source:  NYSUT Communications
labor history

With the stroke of a pen, New York state Gov. Kathy Hochul proclaimed May Labor History Month.

And as we witness the growing strength of labor activists across the nation and state, we’re reminded daily of the many important contributions the labor movement has made over the years.

meet kate mullaney 

New York has a long and strong labor history.

From the groundbreaking leadership of Kate Mullaney, who in 1864 organized and led the first all-female "Collar Laundry Union" in Troy, to the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in New York City, which led to the enactment of new worker protection laws, the labor movement has been instrumental in supporting working families and improving workplace conditions.

organizers across the country are fighting to unionize workers

Unions are on the rise.

“Interest in unions is on the rise, and New York continues to set the pace as one of the most unionized states in the nation,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said. “Public sector unions have remained strong despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus decision, and it is invigorating to see workers banding together. The trajectory for organized labor in this state — and the nation, for that matter — is one of greater worker voice, better working conditions and more economic justice.”

in corporate behemoths like starbucks, amazon and apple, workers are taking a stand and demanding better wages and wager conditions

From Starbucks to Amazon to Apple and beyond!

Today that work continues with ground-breaking organizing efforts to unionize corporate behemoths like Starbucks, Amazon and Apple. Over the past few months, workers have formed unions at Starbucks nationwide and at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island. A group of Apple store employees in Atlanta became the first to formally seek recognition in April through Communications Workers of America. Workers at an Apple Store at Grand Central Terminal in New York City have also begun to sign authorization cards that could lead to a union vote allowing them to join Workers United.

nysut is standing in solidarity with these organizers

NYSUT is doing the work to support organizing efforts in New York state.

As a powerful statewide union, NYSUT has lent its support to these fledgling movements. It joined with the American Federation of Teachers to back the Amazon Labor Union in a letter calling on NYS Attorney General Letitia James to investigate Amazon for violating terms of the Excelsior Jobs Program by union busting. The statewide union is also standing in solidarity with organizing Starbucks employees.

union organizing by the numbers

The numbers are impressive.

According to the NLRB, from October 2021 through March 2022, it received 1,174 petitions seeking union representation — a 57 percent increase from the same period a year prior, and the most union organizing the NLRB has seen in a decade.

Learn more and take action to support current organizing efforts.

As part of the proclamation declaring May Labor History Month, Gov. Hochul encourages educators to highlight and incorporate lessons about labor history and the labor movement into their classes.

For free classroom resources, visit the AFT lesson-plan sharing site Share My Lesson and the American Labor Studies Center.