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On Labor Day, State Union Leader Says Organized Labor 'Poised To Rise Again'

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People display placards during a rally, Wednesday, July 18, 2018, in front of the Statehouse, in Boston, held to call attention to the lockout of workers from their jobs at National Grid. The union representing natural gas workers contends National Grid is jeopardizing the safety of residents by locking out workers who maintain and repair natural gas infrastructure. The company says it had no choice but to take the action after months of unsuccessful negotiations with two locals represented by the United Steel Workers. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
People display placards during a rally, Wednesday, July 18, 2018, in front of the Statehouse, in Boston, held to call attention to the lockout of workers from their jobs at National Grid. The union representing natural gas workers contends National Grid is jeopardizing the safety of residents by locking out workers who maintain and repair natural gas infrastructure. The company says it had no choice but to take the action after months of unsuccessful negotiations with two locals represented by the United Steel Workers. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

For many workers in Massachusetts, this Sept. 4 is an opportunity to reflect on where organized labor stands in the state

Stephen Tolman, the state president of American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), says that, for him, "it's a day where we reflect on our losses and gains."

Tolman says the state gained about 11,000 new union members in the past year, and that about 300,000 joined unions on a nationwide scale.

"Of the 300,000 members, 75 percent of those are millennials," Tolman says.  "So young people are paying attention to what organized labor can do for them in the workplace. We're excited, we're optimistic."

Tolman says that while middle class wages have been stagnant and have failed to rise with the economy over the last few decades, he believes workers are "poised to regain some control."

'I think organized labor is poised to rise again because people are getting hurt," he says.

To listen to the full interview, click the audio player above. 

This segment aired on September 3, 2018.

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Bob Oakes Senior Correspondent
Bob Oakes was a senior correspondent in the WBUR newsroom, a role he took on in 2021 after nearly three decades hosting WBUR's Morning Edition.

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