ISLAND IN LABOR STRIFE SEA: The future of the American labor movement may lie just off the Las Vegas Strip, inside a squat building huddled in the shadow of the Stratosphere casino, the home of the Culinary Workers Local 226. It's, a fast-growing union of hotel and casino employees that has thrived despite being in a right-to-work state and a region devastated by the real estate crash.
VOLUNTEER ARMY: More than 90 percent of Culinary's 60,000 predominantly immigrant workers opt to be dues-paying members, even though Nevada law says they cannot be forced to pay unions for their services. Housekeepers in most Strip hotels start at $16 an hour with free health care and a pension. Culinary's track record gives a dispirited labor movement some hope even as it hemorrhages workers.
NOT THE NORM: American labor has been on a downward trajectory for decades: Unions represented 30 percent of the workforce when the federal government first began tracking membership in the early 1980s. Now they represent less than 12 percent. Michigan's adoption of a right-to-work law follows a string of recent setbacks in the industrial Midwest.