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Do labor unions effectively protect workers’ rights?

At the turn of the 20th century, the labor movement represented the idea that an organization could stand up for all workers and end exploitation. Labor unions have made enormous steps for the workforce but have also faced significant challenges. Advocates of workers’ unions say their organizations protect them against wage inequality, harsh working conditions, and limited benefits. Opponents of the labor movement claim that unions have become increasingly political and that forcing non-union members to join is unconstitutional.
Do labor unions effectively protect the rights of workers?


Big Union Loss At Amazon Warehouse Casts Shadow Over Labor Movement

The Rise and Fall of America's Labor Unions

Additional resources to think about

'It's Time To Get Something Back': Union Workers' Voices Are Getting Louder
This article from NPR's All Things Considered details the history of labor unions' recent strikes and fights for workers' rights.

Union membership rate 10.5 percent in 2018, down from 20.1 percent in 1938
This primary source infographic from the Bureau of Labor Statistics explores the demographics of the recent decline in union membership.

The decline in unions has hurt nonunion workers too
This article from the Economic Policy Institute takes a look at how union losses have affected workers who are not in a union.

The Labor Movement in the United States | History
This video from History details the impact of labor unions and the labor movement in America through the 19th and 20th centuries.

Labor Unions | National Museum of American History
Take a look at a digital exhibit on labor unions from the Smithsonian NMAH and explore objects from the history of the American labor movement.


Who created this message?

  • What kind of “text” is it?
  • How similar or different is it to others of the same genre?
  • What are the various elements (building blocks) that make up the whole?


What creative techniques are used to attract my attention?

  • What do you notice (about the way the message is constructed)? 
  • What’s the emotional appeal?
  • What makes it seem “real?”
  • What's the emotional appeal? Persuasive devices used?

How might different people understand this message differently from me?

  • How many other interpretations could there be?
  • How could we hear about them?
  • How can you explain the different responses?

What lifestyles, values, and points of view are represented in, or omitted from, this message?

  • What type of person is the reader/watcher/listener invited to identify with?
  • What ideas or perspectives are left out?
  • How would you find what’s missing?
  • What judgments or statements are made about how we treat other people?


Why is this message being sent?

  • What's being sold in this message? What's being told? 
  • Who is served by or  benefits from the message
    – the public?
    – private interests?
    – individuals?
    – institutions?

5 Key Questions of Media Literacy used with permission from the Center for Media Literacy.
Copyright 2002-2021, Center for Media Literacy,


Do labor unions effectively protect workers’ rights?

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