Both efforts represent only a small fraction of the total staff of those companies. But they also represent a sea change in the key discourse on American labor – and they encourage more trade union efforts.
Alexander Colvin, dean of the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University, said, “Although this is a small percentage of the workforce so far, I think this is very significant. I think this is the real change we are seeing.”
From October 2021 to last month, the National Labor Relations Board reported that 1,174 petitions had been filed with the agency seeking union representation. This is 57% more than the same period a year ago – and the highest trade union structure in 10 years.
Since that vote at the small work facility in Staten Island, New York, Amazon, he has spoken to workers who want to have their own union vote at 50 Amazon facilities across the country. Another poll is scheduled for another Staten Island Amazon facility later this month.
“I think what we did as a catalyst for a revolution with Amazon workers, like the Starbucks union effort,” he said in an interview with CNN + last week. “We want to have the same domino effect.”
The 9,000 U.S. stores run by Starbucks have about 235,000 workers. Fewer than 1,000 workers in 17 stores voted for the union. As was the case at Amazon, about 8,300 workers at the Staten Island facility were eligible to vote. It’s less than 1% of the company’s 1.1 million employees, including warehouse and office workers.
Govt changes over time
John Logan, a professor of labor and employment research at San Francisco State University, said the demands of many unions stem from difficulties in working during epidemics over the past two years.
“Part of what has changed is that we are at a different moment, [with] Leading employees feel they have not been rewarded or treated with respect during epidemics, “Logan said.” I think something has changed in the consciousness of young workers. “
Kyla Plato, the NLRB’s press secretary, said in a statement that the board was “an independent federal body accused by Congress of enforcing the National Labor Relations Act” and that its enforcement action against Amazon was “consistent with that”.
“Things are changing for the better for workers. They have implemented solutions that make it easier to organize,” said Smalls, president of the Amazon Labor Union. “We still have a long way to go.”
The biggest possible change under the new, more labor-friendly NRLB, the recent comment of its general adviser, is that management can no longer seat workers through presentations on the company’s union position, arguing that doing so violates workers’ rights. Organizing-related activities should be avoided. Such meetings are central to administrative efforts to thwart union organization efforts.
One of the biggest challenges facing the union is the small number of forced meetings. “Workers have 24-hour access. You can’t compete by comparing it,” he said.
Although Colvin said it would not surprise him if the Democrat-controlled NLRB voted to change it, the idea would not change the current law that allows those meetings. From there, it could be a potential court case that could go to the US Supreme Court, which has already indicated very little support for the unions.
Decrease in the number of union members
Even with the recent successes for the unions, many long-term trends that have reduced the number of union members by only 7% in the private sector over the past 50 years are still in effect. Colvin said a major reason is the shift from manufacturing to service sector jobs like Starbucks and Amazon.
Other factors contributing to the decline in union membership include the rise of non-union rivals, automation, the creation of facilities in the less trade-friendly southern states, and the shift of production abroad.
Experts say finding ways to streamline Amazon and Starbucks and other service companies in areas such as technology, finance and retail is key to reversing those long-term trends.
Eric Loomis, a labor historian and associate professor at the University of Rhode Island, said the unions’ winning over new members was an uphill battle but that did not mean they could not win.
“Amazon is the GM or US Steel of our time – and it took decades to reorganize those seats,” he said before the vote results were announced on Amazon last month. “Before these kinds of companies were finally successfully organized, it took on different kinds of campaigns through different ideologies, different organizational methods.”