Wednesday, May 4, 2022

If it feels like labor unions are having their moment, it’s because they absolutely are

Union representation petitions are surging. According to the National Labor Relations Board, they have increased a whopping 57% over the past six months.

Even more astounding is just how many of these petitions are in hospitality and food service industry. According to an NPR analysis, 27.5% of all union election petitions filed thus far this year come from that market segment. Compare that to just a decade ago when the number was a scant 3.8%. That's nearly a 625% increase. 

For sure, the wildfire of union organizing that's blazing nationwide through Starbucks has skewed these industry numbers. But they only tell part of the story. You can be sure that hospitality and food service industry employees in workplaces other than Starbucks are paying attention and taking note. If Starbucks baristas are organizing, you can be damn sure that other employees in this industry are also actively organizing or strongly considering it. 

For example, take a look as this quote from an article by Good Beer Hunting about union organizing in craft breweries: "Because unions in craft brewing is a brand-new thing … that’s why it can seem more fragmented. But the workers are finding each other and are talking. It's 100% happening on Twitter and Instagram." 

When I talk to business owners about implementing some basic union avoidance training, the pushback I hear most frequently is that they don't want to inadvertently plant the "union" ear worm with their employees.

I got news for them — that ear worm has already been planted. Starbucks has taken care of that. 

If you don't think your employees are thinking and talking about labor unions, you're not paying attention to what's happening nationally. Or, to use the words of Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations, "Organizing is contagious."

If your employees are talking to each other about whether they should form a union and you're not talking to them about why they shouldn't, the next conversation you might find yourself having about a labor union will be across the bargaining table from one.

You must invest in your workplace culture and in some basic 21st century union avoidance strategies that appropriately address the current wave of organizing. Otherwise, you might just find your business among the next set of NLRB data. Don't become a statistic.

Tomorrow. I'll take a look at why labor unions are surging in the hospitality and food service industry. Some of the reasons might surprise you.