Union elections were up in 2022, driven by workers new to labor organizing : NPR
Daniel Boczarski/Getty image for SEIU
This year, a rare burst of union dynamics has produced some big wins – along with some significant losses and conflicts with employers.
Starbucks and Amazon are far away alone facing the big union drive. As unemployment remains low and wages rise, workers in the education and healthcare, food service and retail sectors continue to push through the pandemic for high pay. more, more sick leave and other changes to their working conditions. But tangible results have been difficult to quantify – so far. The year 2023 could tell us a lot more about the durability and impact of the resurgent labor movement.
Here’s some of what happened this year.
1. The number of union elections skyrocketed in 2022 — and unions won most of them.
According to the National Labor Relations Board, there were 1,249 union elections in fiscal year 2022, an increase of nearly 50% from the previous year.
Workers voted in favor of unions in 72% of those elections, up from 61% in 2021.
Several factors help explain that increase. Public support for unions is at a 60-year high (more on that below). And Starbucks has played such a big role in driving that number. Starbucks accounted for about a quarter of all union elections this year, and the union won four out of five elections.
This year saw unions formed in workplaces that have never or rarely seen labor organization. Workers voted to unionize for the first time at Trader Joe’s, Apple and Chipotle stores. The alliance’s historic victory at a giant Amazon warehouse on Staten Island is still being challenged by the company.
Other notable union campaigns this year have involved graduates at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, healthcare workers at Kaiser Permanente and elsewhere, and auto workers at Ultium Cells , an electric vehicle battery factory owned by GM in Warren, Ohio.
2. Companies have launched strong counter-attacks and some are working.
Companies often say that unions break their direct relationship with workers. To discourage employees from joining unions, they actively raised wages, added benefits, and changed workplaces. They have also flooded stores with managers and, in some cases, fired pro-union employees citing other, unrelated violations.
All of this seems to be working. Amazon workers at other warehouse voted against the merger. So did the workers at Home Depot and a Trader Joe’s location. Momentum has slowed at Starbuckswhere there are approximately 270 consolidated locations representing less than 3% of all company-operated stores in the United States
Image of Spencer Platt/Getty
Federal labor officials this year stepped up legal challenges, accusing high-profile employers — including Amazon and Starbucks — of unfair labor practices (which the companies deny ). Federal law prohibits employers from retaliating against union activity or even questioning employees about union activity. However, the companies have a long legal path to challenge any related allegations.
3. Most union victories have not resulted in collective bargaining contracts
For all the outstanding union victories in 2022, the process of reaching a collective bargaining agreement to negotiate a pay raise or other changes desired by union workers is a very tedious process. slow.
At Amazon’s warehouse on Staten Island, the process hasn’t even begun – like Amazon Labor Union victory is still controversialeven after a hearing lasts for months.
Photos Justin Sullivan/Getty
At Starbucks, negotiations were repeatedly disrupted as workers accused the company of delaying tactics to prevent further consolidation, while the company accused the union of illegally recording and broadcasting commercials. negotiation session. Each side blamed the other for not negotiating in good faith.
4. Some union workers get high pay raises, even keeping up with inflation.
Overall, wages this year increased by 5.1% compared to last year. With far more job openings than are available, wages are rising even faster in some of the lowest-paying jobs. But adjusted for 7% inflation, overall real wages falland many workers feel like they are losing ground.
Some unions have been able to get more from employers, successfully negotiate a consistent wage increase or even beat inflation this year.
Railway workers didn’t get everything they want to get out protracted negotiations with freight railwaysbut they got a 7% raise in 2022, with the promise of an 8.5% increase over the next two years, plus an annual bonus.
Food service workers at San Francisco International Airport received a 30% raise in two years after going on strike for three days in September. They will see wages increase from about $17 an hour to $22 an hour by 2024. The deal also includes health insurance, retirement, and a one-time bonus.
5. Americans endorse unions to a degree not seen since the 1960s – but next year’s economy will be big
Only about 10% of US workers belong to a unionbut 68% of Americans approve of unions, according to Gallup. That’s a level of support not seen since 1965.
Alliance spirit campaigns at cafes, on college campuses and at companies like Starbucks and REI that have long positioned themselves as progressives that have brought a new generation of workers into the workforce. Whether they stay or not will depend on their career prospects in other fields and how they bargain in collective bargaining.
The economy is another factor. Economists say that not every recession – if it happens – will stifle union enthusiasm. Sometimes, when things go down, workers can feel like they need a union to represent their interests. Historically, however, the recession has been a difficult time for labor organization and campaigns for better pay and benefits.