Massachusetts' largest federation of unions has a new president. Chrissy Lynch takes the helm of the state AFL-CIO during a big moment for labor. She's also the first woman to head the organization.
Lynch joined WBUR's Morning Edition host Rupa Shenoy to talk more about this.
Highlights from this interview have been lightly edited for clarity.
On recent labor movement victories, and whether this is a national turning point:
"We are very much a movement of inclusivity and intersectionality, and the proof is in the pudding, and I think we have momentum. Workers and unions make nearly 20% more in wages than our non-union counterparts. We're more likely to have health benefits. We work in safer workplaces. We have more job security.
"And we've done some recent polling, and we found that nearly 90% of people under 30 have a favorable view of unions. That polls higher than chocolate and vanilla ice cream."
On what she hopes to do with this momentum:
"We want to grow the middle class. We want to improve the lives of working people across the board, whether they're union members or not. And we want to create an economy that works for everybody.
"We all agree that the best way to do that is to organize more people into unions and negotiate those union members strong contracts, while also being active politically and legislatively so that we can protect good laws that support good lives for working people — regardless of all the ways that the right wing has tried to divide us, which is by race, by gender, by ethnicity, by immigration status, by who we love."
On being the first woman to lead the organization:
"I think it's a big deal. When I graduated from college, there were very few people my age in labor spaces back then, and there were even fewer women.
"I think back to some of the women who were in that space back then, and I remember just being floored by how much they looked out for each other, and how much they looked out for me, frankly, to make sure that I felt empowered and that I had a place to go with questions."
On the competing ballot question campaigns regarding ride-hail and food delivery drivers:
"If Uber and Lyft are successful here in putting a whole class of workers — because they're on an app, they're OK to be considered independent contractors — it's going to have a ripple effect in not only other sectors of work, but, it's going to keep draining our social safety nets.
"It's going to leave consumers vulnerable. Their game plan is kind of like, privatize all the profit, but put all the risks onto everybody else. How that's playing out here in Massachusetts really has the eyes of the entire country."
On the other major factors she thinks are impacting the labor landscape:
"Two things that are on my mind a lot: COVID brought all of these kind of societal problems to a head. It really exposed sort of the inequities. But right now, we're still in a reckoning with some of the aftermath. For example, remote work, it has helped a lot of people achieve more work life balance, which is great, but it's also changed local economies with some restaurants not returning, with some office space going vacant. That leads to less hospitality jobs. It leads to fewer new office buildings, which means less construction work.
"The other big thing is how we tackle the very scary threat of climate change, but how do we also ensure protections and a just transition for the workers who have spent their careers providing gas-based energy? And how do we ensure that equity is at the center of decarbonization and climate resilience, so that we're also growing the middle class, diversifying the labor movement?"
This segment aired on November 7, 2023.