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Why is there a union boom?


Bernie Sanders, an Independent of Vermont, talks with Christian Smalls at an ALU rally on Sunday, April 24, 20,22 in Staten Island.

Victor J. Blue | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Unions have been in decline for years, but are now thriving again. Employers across the nation are organizing more often to demand better benefits, higher pay, and greater safety.

Recent statistics show that the filings of petitions for union representation at the NLRB grew 57% in the period October 2021 to March this year, compared with the previous year. dataThe U.S. National Labor Relations Board. During the same time, unfair labor practices charges rose 14%

There are more than 250 StarbucksLocations that filed petitions and after notching a first winLate last year 54 Starbucks store-owned outlets were formalized. An assortment of workers work at AmazonWarehouse in New York City Recently votedJoin the Amazon Labor Union to be the first union formed at the 2nd-largest U.S. Private Employer. GoogleKansas City Fiber Contractors are successful votedTheir small workplace was unionized in March, becoming the first to have bargaining rights under Alphabet Workers Union’s one-year-old. 

These efforts resonate with the wider public. Gallup poll conducted last September showed 68% percent of Americans approve of labor unions — the highest rate since 71% in 1965.

Why is union again so popular?

The Covid-19 pandemic

Experts agree that the Covid-19 pandemic was the most important factor.

The pandemic served as a wake-up call and a catalyst for two different perspectives. Mark Pearce, a former NLRB chair and Georgetown Law Professor currently teaches at Georgetown Law said that the relationships between workers and employers are important. “The vulnerable workers — they were not only scared, they were pissed.” 

Jason Greer (labor consultant, former field inspector agent at the NLRB), said that “Covid was everything.” Many people stated that they were seeing their loved ones die, and suddenly found themselves in a situation where we had to face our mortality. However, many organizations expected us to continue working just as hard or more.

Employers and governments imposed additional restrictions in an effort to stop the spread of the pandemic. This led to increased demand for services such as e-commerce or grocery delivery that allow people to do more at home. Employees were then faced with new challenges. It was necessary for retail employees to ensure that they were wearing masks and had their vaccines checked. Drivers and workers in warehouses were worried they didn’t have the correct safety gear.

Jess Kutch is cofounder and chief executive officer of The site assists workers to organize their work. This group received more traffic to their website over three months than in all its years. It was clear that more people wanted to voice their opinions than ever before.

Positive political climate

The supportive political climate they have seen for decades is also being used by organizers.

Joe Biden is President vowedto be the most pro-union president of all time and has spoken out in support of the PRO Act. This Act aims to streamline the process for unionization. 

Biden revamped and fired Peter Robb (ex-NLRB general counsel) shortly after he assumed office. Biden installed Jennifer Abruzzo (an ex-union lawyer) as the new general counsel. She has used her enforcement powers quite widely.

Pearce said, “It’s important that Biden did that as he was sending a message from labor that the NLRB should not be demolished from within.”

Biden targeted captive audience meetings as a tactic to reject labor efforts by corporations. The NLRB settlementAmazon’s December message sent a clear signal to all other union workers and companies that the NLRB would enforce violations aggressively.

On Thursday, the president met with 39 labor leaders across national borders, including Christian Smalls (head of Amazon Labor Union) and Laura Garza (union leader at Starbucks’ New York City Roastery). 

Contagious success

The media attention on employees organizing — successful or not — also fuels a domino effect, experts said. Kutch stated that employees don’t have to be successful.

Georgia employees, for instance, work at an Apple retail location. told CNBCThey were partly inspired by Amazon workers who attempted to unify a Bessemer warehouse. Derrick Bowles who serves on the Apple Retail Union organizing team said he’s had an “amazing” experience. “massive amount of respect” for what the Bessemer employees did — even though that union drive hasn’t yetIt was a success. 

Sarah Pappin, a Starbucks organizer, said in Seattle that she had been in contact to unionize Verizon employees.

Pappin stated that “We all play around with the same crappy retail job.” “This is when we all realize that this sucks everywhere. So let’s make one stand to prove it.”

Starbucks announced in May that it will be closing its stores. hike wagesFor tenured employees, it doubles the training of new hires and introduces a tipping function to credit and debit cards transactions. It said that it will not offer these enhanced benefits to employees at more than 50 cafes owned by companies who voted to unionize.

Pearce stated, “We are seeing worker justice and social justice combined. It’s not only on fire but getting results.”

Richard Bensinger is a union organizer for Starbucks Workers United, and was previously the AFL-CIO’s organizing director. believesThe majority of pro-union workers are still in their 20s. He says they form part of the “Gen U,” which is a group that supports unions. Gallup data for 2021 shows that 77% of young adults (18-34 years old) approve of unions.

According to experts, these young workers look up to each other for inspiration.

Kutch was joined by Pearce to give the Google Walkout as an example. She said it “was an important time not only for the tech industry but also for the history and development of the labor movement.”

November 2018: Thousands of GoogleEmployees in over 20 offices all around the globe staged walk-outsTo protest an explosive New York Times reportThis article described how Google protected executives who were accused of sexual misconduct by either keeping them on the staff or making it easy for them to leave. The organizers described the culture as “a workplace culture which’s not working well for everyone” and listed several requirements. Some ended up being California lawWhile others were included into a settlementWith shareholders who had sued for damages because of how the company handled the incident.

It showed that employees from a large corporation could organize by way of internal chatter, spreadsheets and emails — in a matter of days, Kutch said, adding that many people saw the images through social media.

Pearce explained that “screaming out about injustices and holding up signs in front facilities have a lot more impact when it’s online” 

Annie Palmer, CNBC, also contributed to the report.