January 31, 2023

Volume XIII, Number 31


January 30, 2023

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Labor Day 2022 Shows Union Activity at Highest Level in Decades

Labor Day 2022 comes at an optimistic time for U.S. labor unions. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, representation petitions and elections were declining steadily. However, National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election filings have increased by 58% in the first nine months of 2022, compared with the same time period in 2021, according to a Board press release.

Many organizing campaigns are being led by younger workers leveraging social media to gain mass followings and attract national attention at a rapid pace. The use of social media has helped these new generations of workers to mobilize support quickly across other employers. Such campaigns frequently grab the attention of workers across all industries, leading to a wave of unionization efforts as more workers look to be part of the movement and increasingly see unionization as a path to social justice.

This summer, the country has seen workers at high-profile employers petition to unionize for the first time. For example, employees at a Chipotle Mexican Grill in Lansing, Michigan, voted to be represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), making Lansing the chain’s first location of nearly 3,000 to do so. The uptick in unionizing also is affecting other non-traditional union targets. For instance, on September 1, 2022, architects at a private firm in New York organized one of the first private sector unions in the industry.

Further changing the landscape, the Biden NLRB has issued decisions that will have far-reaching impact on both unions and employers. In fact, the Board made a potential precedent-shifting change when it announced a proposed rule that would broaden the test of what entities constitute a “joint employer.” The proposed rule, if it takes effect, will almost certainly increase the number of employees deemed to be jointly employed by two or more employers. Additionally, on August 29, 2022, the Board overturned long-standing precedent by ruling a company cannot enforce dress codes or uniform policies to the extent such policies interfere with employees’ right to display union insignia in any way, unless an employer demonstrates “special circumstances.”

However, despite an increase in union campaigns and a Biden NLRB, not all workers may jump on the trend. According to a Gallup poll, public support for unions is at 71%, the highest it has been since 1965. Only 7% of private sector workers, however, currently belong to a union. Further, the Gallup poll reported that 58% of non-union workers are “not interested at all” in actually joining a union. This shows a majority of workers recognize that unions may be unnecessary in the enlightened workplace of an employer of choice.

Additionally, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report, compensation in non-union jobs is outpacing compensation in union-represented jobs. The total wage and benefit costs for private-sector non-unionized employers was 3% higher than unionized employers for the 12-month period ending June 2022. From 2018 to June 2022, non-union employee compensation has risen dramatically while union employee compensation has remained steady.

It is more important than ever to focus on being an employer of choice. 

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2023National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 258

About this Author

Edward M. Cherof Employment lawyer Jackson Lewis

Edward M. Cherof is a Principal in the Atlanta, Georgia, office of Jackson Lewis P.C.  He is also the co-leader of the firm’s Workplace Training Practice Group.

Since joining the firm in 1986, Mr. Cherof has represented employers in all aspects of labor and employment law and litigation. He has extensive experience providing employers with strategic advice relating to union organizing and in proceedings before the National Labor Relations Board. He also regularly assists clients in addressing the full scope of employment law matters, including those arising...

Jonathan J. Spitz, Jackson Lewis Law Firm, Labor Employment Attorney, Atlanta

Jonathan J. Spitz is a Principal in the Atlanta, Georgia, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is Co-Leader of the firm’s Labor and Preventive Practices Group.

Mr. Spitz lectures extensively, conducts management training, and advises clients with respect to legislative and regulatory initiatives, corporate strategies, business ethics, social media issues and the changing regulatory landscape. He understands the practical and operational needs of corporate America, helping design pragmatic strategies to minimize risk and maximize performance. He has represented...

Richard F. Vitarelli Harford  Connecticut Labor Relations Lawyer at Jackson Lewis Law Firm

Richard F. Vitarelli is a Principal in the Hartford, Connecticut, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. Part of the firm’s national labor practice, he has over two decades of experience representing employers nationally in strategic labor relations, collective bargaining, and union organizing, including in the context of mergers and acquisitions, corporate restructuring and contract administration. He serves as general labor and employment counsel for employers and multi-employer associations in various industries, including construction, manufacturing, health care and senior living,...