The Contagious New Toolbox Of Union Organizing Strategies

by | Apr 14, 2022 | IBT, Retail, Tech - Media, Union Organizing

One only needs to witness the all-time low level of union membership in 2021, including the falling membership of the Teamsters, to know that incoming president Sean O’Brien will work hard to drum up organizing drives. In 2022 and beyond, he and other union chiefs continue to dig into a brand new arsenal of strategies, which have (according to the NLRB) led to a 57% increase in election petitions within six months.

Employers should be aware, too, that this increased union activity is landing in some unexpected places. The CODE-CWA initiative, for example, recently launched an aggressive new mission to organize tech workers of all stripes, as opposed to an old-school union focus on manufacturing and the like. The food and retail industries also continue to see worker organization, proving that no industry is immune to infiltration.

This includes the previously invulnerable Starbucks, which sprung a leak in the dike that’s now a flood. The coffeehouse giant has seen more than 100 cafes organize with a total of 16 voting to unionize so far. Other coffeehouse workers (including Collectivo) followed suit, and Heine Brothers’ workers (at 15 out of 18 cafes) wish to organize, too. And the targeting of Starbucks isn’t happening on an island: these tactics are spreading to other industries, where they’re motivating workers to climb onboard.

When a Seattle cafe voted to organize, for example, employees at a nearby thrift store (Crossroads Trading Co.) followed suit. And over at Amazon, workers at Staten Island warehouse JFK8 voted to organize (although they’re not NLRB-certified yet) with an Alabama warehouse vote still to be determined. The organization of these seemingly impervious giants can likely be attributed to the following organizing strategies, which are aided by the Biden administration’s union-friendly NLRB:

  • Unions edged into targeting so-called “progressive” employers with more inherently “woke” policies. That includes younger workers at Starbucks (which already, pre-organizing, handed out free college tuition to employees) and media outlets like the New York Times (which recently saw tech workers vote in favor of a union) that are overall more liberal and predisposed to be union-friendly;
  • An alleged weed-for-votes scheme certainly didn’t hurt the union cause when it came to organizing a warehouse for one ecommerce juggernaut. Doling out cannabis is a wild strategy if there ever was one, but one union lawyer likened it to “distributing free t-shirts” while questioning how this could have possibly affected election results. The company duly questioned the union’s methods;
  • Pandemic times and social distancing also caused remote work to flourish, which led unions to take to the Internet (with handy hashtags) to reach an audience;
  • Unions take full advantage of social media, given that it’s a cheaper, stealthier, more accessible, and an almost instantaneous mode of spreading the word compared to, say, bulletin board flyers or chatting at the water cooler;

As we’ve already mentioned, geographical proximity to union-activity breakouts (as is the case with the Seattle thrift store near an organized Starbucks) can be a motivating factor in allowing union contagion to spread. LRI can help you find out where union activity surfaces near your company’s U.S. locations. For information on this subject, reach out to Erin Lormer at 1-800-888-9115.


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