Depending on where you get your news, you might think that unionization at private employers is experiencing a drastic rise. Nearly every week, news articles highlight unionization efforts at high-profile companies like Starbucks, Amazon, and Mcdonald’s. Despite being only three-quarters of the way into FY22, union election petitions for FY22 have already exceeded the total number of election petitions filed in all of FY21. This represents a 58% increase in election petitions from FY21 if the trend holds for the remainder of FY22.
The factors cited for the rise of union elections will not surprise any employer that has been following recent employment trends – post-COVID workplace dissatisfaction, greater availability of employment opportunities, and inflation are cited as central reasons why some employees feel emboldened to seek improved terms and conditions of employment through collective bargaining. For some employers, employees seeking improved conditions at work through collective bargaining may actually be a blessing in disguise. Studies show that many workers are more likely to increase their compensation by transitioning to a new job rather than negotiating a raise with their current employer.
As a result, unionization may help employers struggling with employee retention. However, despite the possible benefits, few employers welcome unionization efforts. At-will employment, the ability to change policies, benefits, and pay without negotiations leads most employers to oppose union election petitions.
With all that said, other studies suggest that the increase in union election petitions and news stories do not paint a complete picture. Only about 6% of private employees are union members, with government employees making up the vast majority of union members. Among government workers, as right to work laws for public employees have been passed in every state, union membership has declined to historically low levels. This suggests that, despite some high-profile unionization efforts, employee interest in union membership is low and that these high-profile cases are outliers being given undue attention by the media.
At Luchansky Law, we recognize the challenges that employers with unionized workforces face. If your business would like assistance in responding to an election petition, negotiating a collective bargaining agreement, or implementing policies to keep your employees happy (and thereby avoiding a unionization push), give us a call at (410) 522-1020 to schedule a consultation.