Ask Me Why: What good is a union?

April 15, 2011

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(Flickr/UIC Digital Collections)
A 19th century illustration depicts labor riots that took place by the Halsted St. viaduct in 1877.

For the next installment of our conversation series Ask Me Why we have two voices on opposite sides of the debate about unions.

First is Antonieta Caicedo, 43. Caicedo grew up aspiring to work in human resources in a union environment, but became disillusioned by what she saw once she got there. She left feeling like unions hurt private sector companies more than they help them.  

Public school teacher Sarah Boehm, 33, on the other hand, thinks that unions are vital for protecting workers’ rights. Her opinions are also rooted in her personal experiences. She says she feels she would have been treated more fairly by a former employer if she had been able to seek council from her union rep at the time.

Inspired by similar debates in Wisconsin and elsewhere these two friends, who met five years ago through their shared love of jazz, tackle such questions as: What is the value of a union in 2011? And is it possible to protect workers from abuse without them?

Ask Me Why is produced in collaboration with the Illinois Humanities Council, and was made possible by a grant from The Boeing Company. If you and someone you know are interested in participating in this series, you can download the application form here.