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Snapshots of American Unions Through the Ages

Twelve photos that show the evolution of the U.S. labor movement from the early 1900s to today.

Welcome to State of the Unions Week, where we look at the past, present, and future of organized labor in America.


For more than a century, unions have held a valuable place in American political mobilization. Unions provide a buffer between workers and companies, and a platform upon which ordinary Americans can mobilize and fight for their rights as laborers.

Unions were once a force to be reckoned with—they hit a peak of 34.8 percent enrollment in 1954, and reached many areas of daily life in America. In the mid-20th century, it seemed as though striking was the new American pastime; however, labor union enrollment waned in the late 1900s, and held a mere 10.7 percent in 2017.

Despite low enrollment, unions continue to hold strikes and protests to fight for workers' rights today.

Follow the trajectory of labor union movements in the United States from 1919 to present day: