Journal of the Indiana Academy of the Social Sciences

Document Type



This article examines the importance of unions in contemporary times. Our research focuses on United Auto Workers Local 72, a union representing workers at a factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin, during several plant closings. Using qualitative data collected over a span of more than 20 years, we examine the role of the local union in helping the workers respond to the plant closing in ways that would produce the most beneficial results for them. We trace stories of the workers’ and union’s resistance, cooperation, and pride in their work. The workers’ continued commitment to quality and their strong work ethic seemed to be key factors in persuading the company to keep some work on the site and, later, to add more. These tactics were successful through several changes in ownership and economic cycles until the Great Recession of 2008, at which point the work destined for the plant in Kenosha was finally sent to Mexico, yet most of the workers affected by the original plant closing in 1988 were eventually able to come back to work and to retire with full pensions from the company. Our evidence suggests the roles that unions may continue to play in this age of globalization.