There have been a lot of reports on the decline of unions. They say unions are a dying breed and younger workers in particular are not interested in union membership but this revelation must be a little weak when you consider the work unions have done this last year to increase membership especially with some of the newer businesses.
One organizing effort of the newer businesses that got some attention is Uber. In Seattle, the city council voted in December to allow Uber and Lyft drivers the opportunity to unionize. While Uber and Lyft have created popular new trends both in transportation and work structures, they also are creating a new demand for unions. As Uber continues to cut fares, it also takes away income from the drivers which has angered many. Some of the drivers take out car loans through Uber and are having a difficult time paying the loans with the reduction in pay. This week there also was a report on driver safety which has been a problem but drivers are becoming more agitated as Uber, they say, does very little to help them.
In Tennessee, skilled trade workers at the Volkswagen plant voted to organize. Volkswagen has its share of problems especially with the emissions issue and employees are concerned about potential lay-offs and cuts. The management side was concerned about the split this would create between the workforce. This was considered a strong win for UAW because it is the first time the union was able to organize a non-US auto company in the south. Although it is a small representation of all the Volkswagen workers, it is a beginning.
Other transportation segments also saw union organization during last year. Workers at Envoy, which contracts with American Airlines, voted for representation. Another new transportation segment also organized. Transport Workers Union is supporting bike share workers. Bike share workers are located on the east coast and in Chicago. Bike sharing is getting the use of a bike at one location and dropping it off at another location. The bike share workers include those that repair the bikes, manage the posts where people pick up the bikes, transporting the bikes between posts, dispatchers and valets. These people decided to unionize because their industry is seasonal and that created scheduling problems. In addition, there was no layoff procedure. It was more random.
Multiple media outlets were organized this last year. Employees at Huffington Post, Gawker, the Guardian US and others decided to unionize because they were concerned about their pay and benefits plus the inability to have a voice in the workplace.
Another notable organizing drive concerns a presidential candidate that is in the news all the time. Trump Hotel workers in Las Vegas voted to organize. Despite Donald Trump saying he takes good care of his employees, he apparently does not according to hotel workers. They say their wages are much less than other Las Vegas hotels.
These are just a sample of some of the organizing efforts that are happening across the country. Education and healthcare are also making gains in union membership and we’ve heard in the news about fast-food workers. McDonald’s franchise owners are busy fighting unionization.
It doesn’t mean union membership is back to where it used to be. Unions still need to do a lot of work but it is a step in the right direction for them. As we reported in an earlier blog, there is almost 60% support for unions especially as wages are stagnated or growing slowly.
The other issue that continues to drive unionization are workplace environments. It is somewhat ironic the managers that complain the most about unions are usually the reason why their employees organize. As one of our former labor board member used to say his best organizer was a bad manager.