This Labor Day, unions get more attention in Maryland

MARYLAND — As Labor Day approaches, interest in labor unions picks up after decades of decline. In Maryland, approximately 295,000 people, or 11% of the labor force, are union members.

Nationally, about 10.3% of American workers were unionized in 2021, up from 10.8% the previous year, and consistent with pre-pandemic union membership. The American labor movement has been in decline since 1983, when 20% of American workers were unionized.

But at the end of the year, 2022 might tell a different story.

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In the past 12 months, Maryland has seen 59 union elections filed and 49 held. Of these, 34 elections have certified a new unit, seven open representation cases remain open, and three are still awaiting a vote.

Employers saw an increase in unionization in all three quarters of the 2022 federal fiscal year as U.S. workers seek higher wages, better benefits and safer workplaces, contributing to what analysts say one of the most important labor movements for decades.

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In Maryland this summer, some workers at MOM’s organic market in Baltimore voted to unionize with Teamsters Local 570. The initial tally on August 26 showed 58 votes in favor of a union and 5 votes against.

From Oct. 1 to June 30, the number of union representation petitions filed rose 56%, from 1,935 to 1,935 from 1,240 in the same period of fiscal 2021, according to the National Labor Relations Board, an independent federal agency responsible for enforcing US laws. labor law.

During the same nine-month period of the current fiscal year, complaints of unfair labor practices increased by 14.5%, from 11,451 to 13,106 during the same period of fiscal 2021. 14516

Most of Maryland, including the suburbs of Washington, DC, is represented by NLRB Region 5. From October 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022, Region 5 received 143 requests for representation, up from 75 the previous year.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting labor shortage have been behind the renewed interest in trade unions.

An estimated 47 million Americans quit their jobs before typical retirement age in 2021 in what has been called the “Great Quit,” upending the relationship between workers and the labor market. According to some estimates, another 20% are expected to leave the labor market at the start of 2022.

Workers at hundreds of local Starbucks stores, Amazon warehouse workers, Google fiber contractors, and even strippers are unionizing. Additionally, the picketing power of unions grew stronger during the Great Resignation with 169 labor strikes – the most in a year since 2012, according to Bloomberg law.

The striking workers represented a range of industries, from food makers like Frito-Lay, Nabisco and Kellogg’s to auto and equipment makers like Volvo and John Deere to universities, hospitals, airports and carpenters. Workers at several fast food and retail chains staged short strikes and work stoppages.

“I’ve traveled extensively observing picket lines across the country over the past two months, I’ve been to so many different states and across all industries. But the one thing that’s really consistent is the feeling of workers taking risks is that they’re really fed up,” said Liz Shuler, president of the AFL-CIO, the largest union. American, to the Guardian last year. .

Part of the problem?

Workers in some industries were classified as ‘essential’ and required to report to work during the early days of the pandemic, before vaccines became available, but felt ‘disposable’ when demanding better conditions , Shuler said.

“These are the people who really made the sacrifices and all the time they were told they were essential,” she said. “Then they go to the bargaining table, and they’re basically disposable because companies have continued to profit from the pandemic and then say, ‘Thank you, but we’re not going to compensate you, we’re not going to protect you. , we are not going to appreciate and reward you for making these sacrifices. ”

The strikes continue into 2022. Among them are frontline healthcare workers, whose demands for better pay and safe working conditions come as hospitals grapple with recruitment and retention issues. to burnout.

Hundreds of nurses from the University of Wisconsin health care nurses voted to strike in early September as they lobbied for unionization.

“We are striking to end the vicious cycle of understaffing and burnout and to gain a union voice, so we can protect the health of our patients and the health of others,” Tami Burns, a registered nurse who has worked at UW Health since 2017, said in a press release announcing the strike.

The nurses there are not officially unionized, but more than 1,500 of them have signed cards saying they want one. In June, the state attorney general issued an opinion saying that nurses employed by the health care system have the right to unionize.

In general, according to Bloomberg Law, striking workers have more leverage now than in the past to improve working conditions and wages because they are harder to replace in a time of low unemployment.

All of this is happening as support for unions grows among Americans.

A Gallup poll of American adults last year showed 68% supported unions, the highest approval rating since 1965. A 90% majority of Democrats said they support unions, and nearly the half of Republicans (47%) said the same.

Gallup asks Americans about unions every year around Labor Day. The most recent poll has yet to be released. (The information here may change with the publication of the 2022 poll, be sure to check if the new poll is out before publication)

The way unions are viewed could change, Kylah Clay, a Starbucks barista and organizer for Starbucks Workers United, said at a Labor Notes conference in Chicago earlier this summer.

“I think we have the opportunity to make the word ‘union’ a taboo word that we’re afraid to say in the workplace,” Clay told Teddy Ostrow, who covers labor, finance and the US economy. for New York German Press. .


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