US sees union growth despite aggressive opposition from big companies

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<p><figcaption class=Photography: Joshua Bessex/AP

After years of decline, the American labor movement is experiencing a resurgence, with a rise in the popularity of unions and worker organizing.

But corporate backlash in the United States has been fierce and came amid allegations of union breakdown and brutal campaigns to try to discourage workers from organizing.

An August 2021 poll by Gallup found support for unions at its highest point in the US since 1965, with 68% support in the US. Unions were the only institution for which American approval did not decline last year, in a June confidence poll of 16 major American institutions.

During the first three quarters of the fiscal year, National Labor Relations reported an increase in union election petitions by 58%, from 1,197 to 1,892.

The NLRB is now pushing for more funding to deal with the surge in labor activity. But the labor law reform failed to pass the US Senate, despite passing the House.

Some of America’s biggest corporations and brands saw workers organize for the first time.

After the first company-run Starbucks in the US won its union election in Buffalo in December, about 200 stores voted to unionize, leading to a resurgence of union election petitions.

These victories came despite aggressive opposition from Starbucks.

In early June, Austin Locke, a Starbucks barista for about six years, three at the Ditmars location in Queens, New York, alleged that a manager laid his hand on him because of an issue with filling out a Covid check-in. before working your shift. He reported the incident to human resources, who he said were dismissive and defensive.

A few weeks later, shortly after his store voted to unionize, he was told that his job had been terminated over allegations that he had not completed Covid check-in and an allegation that the incident he reported to human resources about the manager was false.

Locke is in the process of filing an unfair labor practice allegation with the National Labor Relations Board. He is one of several dozen workers who did so amid a wave of union organizing at Starbucks stores.

Locke’s dismissal prompted several local groups, workers and community members to protest against his dismissal and rally public support for Starbucks’ union organizing efforts.

“We’re basically out on the street every day to hand out flyers, so everyone in the community and the customers who walk into that store — the regulars I used to see every day — know that I’ve been illegally fired.” added Locke.

Starbucks has denied all allegations of retaliation against workers involved in union organizing and said there was no physical fight between Locke and the manager.

Amazon’s first warehouse won the union election in Staten Island, New York, in April of last year, and union organizing campaigns have been publicized at other Amazon warehouses in North Carolina, Kentucky and New York State.

Heather Goodall, started working at an Amazon warehouse near Albany, New York, in February. “Within a week, I was shocked by what I found. There weren’t enough belts for people, they didn’t fit, there were injuries and it was overwhelming,” Goodall said.

She started asking co-workers about their thoughts on forming a union and found there was significant interest but also fear. But that fear began to dissipate after the Staten Island warehouse won, and other workers saw its success in defending co-workers with their problems at Amazon.

After joining the Amazon Labor Union, the independent union that won the union election on Staten Island, Goodall is pushing to gather enough union authorization signatures to merit a union election with the National Labor Relations Board in the coming weeks. Amazon is opposing workers doing so.

Meanwhile, Apple’s first US retail store won its union election in June. Workers at two Trader Joe’s stores, two Chipotle locations and a Lululemon retail store recently applied for union elections, where, if successful, they would be the first such corporations’ locations to unionize.

The first REI retail store successfully unionized in New York City in March, and a second store in Berkeley, California, is holding its union election on July 27.

Jules Gerlitz, an employee at the Berkeley store, said customers are often surprised by the lack of union representation at REI, as the company is a cooperative and considers itself progressive.

Gerlitz said a common anti-union talking point for REI managers is to claim that a union contract guarantees nothing and could lower wages and benefits for workers – which Gerlitz said was an illogical argument because workers would never agree to it. . at the negotiating table.

“REI has released information purporting to be from a neutral position. But it is clearly anti-union in what it intends to do, in terms of generating this fear, or uncertainty, about all these things,” Gerlitz said.

Shortly after the New York store won the union election, the REI company released a company-wide rollout of new wages and benefits, although REI denied that it was a response to the union’s election victory.

Workers also claim that managers from other stores brought to the Berkeley store are misinforming employees about unions.

REI denied the allegations of union opposition. He said managers from offsite stores were brought in to support store functions and cover management’s downtime. REI also claimed that the HR staff shortage issues have been resolved and they have no record of unanswered complaints from the Berkeley store.

“We will fully support the petition process at Berkeley, including the right for all employees to vote for or against union representation,” a REI spokesperson said in an email.

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