Submitted by Bob Dunlevey of Taft/Law
Many have not noticed that since President Biden has taken office the movement by organized labor has become much stronger. His strong pro-labor agenda has greatly assisted not only union but also non-union employees alike in expanding their rights, securing better wages and conditions and making their voices heard. Through Executive Orders, legislation and government agency actions, the Government is giving strong support to labor. Even the U.S. House of Representatives has recently voted to allow its staffers the right to unionize. Americans’ approval of labor unions is at its highest level in many years, as well. A recent Gallup poll verifies that 68% of Americans approve of labor unions – the highest approval rating since 1971.
One need only look at Amazon’s and Starbuck’s union organizing activities to understand how fast things are moving and how all businesses, big and small, have been impacted by the pro-labor environment. Who would have ever thought that Amazon’s 5000+ employee Staten Island distribution facility would become unionized or that President Biden would make a video presentation to the employees supporting union organizing activities at Amazon’s Alabama facility? Who would have thought that the Workers United Union would organize Starbuck’s multinational coffeehouse chain for the first time since the 1980s. And, what about the John Deere strike late last year that resulted in a collective bargaining agreement being negotiated with a 10% wage increase in the first year, $8500 ratification bonuses and an overall 20% increase in wages during the life of the agreement? This was only one of approximately 250 significant strikes that occurred in 2021. Union wages are soaring with Q1 2022 wage increases equaling 4.8%, the highest quarterly increase since 2007. With lump sum payments being added in, the average increase equals an unprecedented 6%. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that non-union workers tend to make 17% less than their union counterparts and in the construction industry 31% less.
The number of NLRB union representation petitions filed grew by a whopping 58% from October 2021 to June 2022 compared to the same period previously. And, the election “win” rate which was 70% in 2020 has risen to 76.8% this year. Some employers are taking significant efforts to push back on the exploding union organizing activities. For example, it has been reported that Amazon spent $4.3 million in 2021 to counter union activities through consultants. Employers who never thought that their employees would seek union representation have had a rude awakening.
In the construction industry, union organizing is being helped substantially by President Biden’s recent Executive Order on the use of project labor agreements for federal construction projects which generally require the higher union wages, benefits and working conditions found in a union bargaining agreement. It is estimated that $262 billion in federal contracts causing the use of 200,000 workers will see workers enjoy these higher wages and benefits – thereby introducing them to the unionized construction world.
While the decline in union membership has been somewhat steady since records started being kept in 1983 when 20.1% of the labor force was unionized, things have changed. 2020 saw the first increase in the total percentage of union workers since 2008. Currently, 13.6% of construction workers are represented by unions while public-sector unionization is 33.9% versus 6.1% in the private sector.
All of this information is compelling. It signals a radical change in the labor movement – a change you may not have noticed. The changes coming in the next few years may rewrite the history of U.S. labor forever and shift the balance of power from management to labor for quite some time.
Whether an employer takes efforts to avoid unionization or not depends upon numerous individual factors. But, if the employer’s business plan is to remain “union free” a strong commitment and decisive, persistent action are required – now more than ever. Employers must assess their vulnerabilities, consider how effectively they deal with employee issues, better train their supervisors and managers on sound H.R. principles, and carry an effective and consistent message to their employees that the company cares, listens, and meaningfully responds to their needs. For further information on union avoidance techniques and training contact Bob Dunlevey, Board Certified Specialist in Labor and Employment Law, at (937) 641-1743 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
DRMA members are eligible to receive one free legal consultation per month from employment law attorney Bob Dunlevey. If you need legal advice concerning labor, safety, real estate, or other business issues, give Bob a call at (937) 641-1743. Be sure to identify yourself as a DRMA member.