Pathways From Engineering Programs to Labor Unions


According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, union density amongst engineering workers within the US hovers around 7%. Despite hundreds of thousands of US engineers participating in the labor movement, engineering education on labor unions has been virtually non-existent within US higher education engineering programs. US higher education engineering programs are critical junctures in the making of engineers that have long histories of ensnarement by corporate industries with vested interests in undermining organized labor. This stark and significant absence of labor education coupled with decades-long denunciations that many engineering professional societies have made to discourage participation of engineers in building labor unions and the labor movement interrupt engineers’ capacity to collectively leverage our power for safer, healthier, and more just workplaces and worlds. An imperative task in the (re)development of the US engineering workforce is to build and strengthen union density amongst engineers by expanding unionization pathways. This paper offers a preliminary report back on a broader engineering workforce development project to nurture relationships between an unorganized (i.e. non-union) engineering research center and organized labor. Herein, we uplift stories from union members describing their pathways from higher education engineering programs to labor unions. Group interview conversations illuminating these stories offer broader contextualization for the sparseness and rarity of the paths from engineering programs to labor unions. Dialogue from group interviews further pointed toward opportunities to expand unionization pathways for engineering workers.

See publication:
This publication pertains to:
Learning and Engagement
Publication Authors:
  • Joseph Valle
  • Lazlo Stepback
  • Polly Parkinson
  • Angela Minichiello
  • Matthew Ohland
It appeared in:
Peer-reviewed conference proceedings

engineering, organized labor, unions, health, safety, workplace