“What’s Going On” With Unionization in America?

A terrific American songwriter and singer as soon as wrote ”picket traces and picket indicators, do not punish me with brutality, speak to me so you may see, what is going on on…” –Marvin Gaye, 1971

As has been effectively publicized in the overall media, employees at a big Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York just lately voted to unionize. That is the primary time a union has received an election at any Amazon facility. On Friday, April 8, 2022, Amazon filed objections with the Nationwide Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which if profitable, may overturn the vote for the union. What has been much less extensively reported and ought to be of concern our readers, is that the union that received the election was not one of many mainstream union labor unions. Fairly, the victors are an unbiased union began by two ex-workers on the warehouse. How these two guys pulled it off and what they plan to do next ought to be rigorously studied by any employer frightened about union organizing makes an attempt at their firm.  

The union win at Amazon comes on the heels of a sequence of profitable union elections at varied Starbucks shops in Buffalo and different locations in New York. Our earlier reporting on unionization at Starbucks might be discovered here. These elections have the Board of Administrators so involved that former CEO Howard Schultz, who “built the company into a global powerhouse,” returned to the corporate to cope with the state of affairs. Not like the Amazon employees, the Starbucks Employees United Employees Union is affiliated with the Service Staff Worldwide Union (“SEIU”), though that affiliation is somewhat hidden to present the impression that, just like the Amazon union, it’s a grassroots effort. SEIU claims membership of virtually 2 million employees, making it one of many largest labor unions in the nation. One can assume the SEIU is offering vital monetary help for additional organizing at Starbucks. 

On the similar time, the NLRB simply issued a press release stating that throughout the interval October 1, 2021, by March 31, 2022, union illustration petitions filed on the NLRB have elevated 57% when in comparison with the primary half of fiscal 12 months 2021. As reported in the press launch, President Biden’s proposed fiscal 12 months 2023 funds requests a 16% improve in funding for the NLRB.  

This improve in union exercise comes on the heels of a two-year pandemic, and in a time for transformation in the labor markets and what has been referred to as ”the Nice Resignation.” As one other well-known songwriter as soon as wrote, “There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.” Is it COVID? Is it a change in worker attitudes about work/life steadiness? Is it a social revolution? The solutions is probably not recognized for a while, however till they’re, listed here are some suggestions:

  • Fastidiously examine the strategies and techniques used in these current profitable organizing campaigns. Identical to in politics, social media has remodeled how workers work together with one another and the way teams wishing to unionize a office can successfully drive their message. 

  • Analyze how your organization communicates along with your workers. Is your organization caught in the previous utilizing solely one-way messaging by way of memos on bulletin boards and captive viewers speeches? What’s your organization doing to know the true considerations of your workers? Is your organization successfully utilizing social media to get its message out earlier than employees begin organizing? For extra on this topic, see this week’s companion article.

  • Prepare your supervisors, practice your supervisors, practice your supervisors; this can’t be acknowledged sufficient! First and second stage supervisors are oftentimes the weakest hyperlink in an organization’s union avoidance applications. Do your supervisors know tips on how to successfully take heed to and perceive the true considerations of their employees? Do they know tips on how to successfully talk the corporate’s message in a approach that may instill belief and confidence in workers that they are going to resolve they don’t want a union?

The problems are complicated and the solutions not simply discovered. Nevertheless, employers who overlook “what’s going on” could also be confronted with their very own “picket lines and picket signs.” 

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