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An empty container ship is anchored at the entrance to the harbor as members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union strike, putting a halt to most of the work at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports for the eighth day on December 4, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. Union workers are opposed to layoffs from the shipping companies that employ them. The opposing sides agreed today to meet with a federal mediator in hopes of resolving the labor dispute at the busiest seaport complex in the nation.
Union membership is at a 97-year low. In the past year, their ranks fell to just over 11 percent of the workforce nationally, with sharp drops in places like Wisconsin and Indiana. And, as you may remember, those states had some pretty dramatic political standoffs over unions.
But turn to California and you get a sunnier outlook. That's because, unlike the most of the nation, union membership grew last year in California by more than 100,000 people.
One reason for the increase is California's high population of Latinos. Harley Shaiken, professor at UC Berkeley specializing in labor history, joins the show to explain why California's unions are still going strong.