Let’s Begin a Discussion by Hearing Various Points of View

INTRODUCTION

The following is a series of interviews I’ve named The Labor-Management Conundrum. After years of decline in union membership, more than two years of COVID-19 and working remotely, and the impact of the Great Resignation, there is cautious optimism about a resurgence of unionism.

This series is presented to share information from people with various perspectives about the unionism, and the labor-management dynamic.  You will hear from union leaders and labor attorneys, a management attorney and management employees, and a neutral professional who hears arbitrations and facilitates mediations. 

I’m honored to have also interviewed a member of the National Labor Relations Board. If union activity remains prominently in the public discourse, additional interviews will be added. 

BACKGROUND

During the 1950s about a third of all private workers belonged to unions.1 By comparison, in January 2022 the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that “[i]n 1983… the union membership rate was 20.1 percent, and there were 17.7 million union workers. In 2021, the number of …workers belonging to unions continued to decline to 14.0 million, and the union membership rate was 10.3 percent.2 

Whether unionism will resurge or simply sputter, there is union activity in interesting and surprising areas. Congressional staffers have begun an organization drive toward unionism.3 Starbucks employees in Oxford, Mississippi, and reportedly in more than 100 stores nationally have made moves toward becoming unionized.4 Reportedly, Starbucks and Workers United, the union that represents approximately 400 of Starbucks’ baristas, “appear on track to reach a contract that will cover wages, benefits, and disciplinary policies.”5  

Similarly, Apple Store employees are also “quietly” exploring whether to unionize.5  It remains to be seen however whether more union activity that leads to victories is on the way. 

Organized labor has stepped into the 21th Century, and is now more diverse and broadly based than in earlier years.6 Do not be mistaken. If there is to be a sustainable resurgence of unionism, more than lip service about creating a “Big Tent” is critical. There is an absolute need to embrace Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity intentionally and authentically, and to welcome all those who seek to move forward to bargain collectively regardless of backgrounds, genders, opinions, and interests.

In my opinion, additionally and as importantly, it’s time to amend the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).  Enacted in 1935 to reduce the causes of labor disputes that interfered with interstate and foreign commerce, the legislation also created the NLRB to administer the new law, and enforce and maintain the newly conferred, among other things, workers’ right to bargain collectively. 

In 2023, protracted labor strikes resulted in tremendous financial losses that served neither labor or management well. As the result of work stoppages in 2023, thousands of workers did not work, and there were millions of idle days when no work was done.

Instead of the tumult, uncertainty, and financial losses associated with labor strikes, there should be a measure of reason and calm during which businesses and workers can reach agreement to their mutual benefit. 

I’ve shared my opinion. What do you think?

Navigating Labor Dynamics: Insights from Beverly A. Williams

Dr. Lycka and Beverly explore the current landscape of labor disputes and strikes, noting a rise in worker dissatisfaction and the need for modernization of labor laws. Beverly advocates for alternative dispute resolution methods to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes for both employers and employees. https://pod.co/how-to-live-a-fantastic-life/navigating-labor-dynamics-insights-from-beverly-a-williams The conversation shifts to the evolving nature of remote work…

Continue Reading Navigating Labor Dynamics: Insights from Beverly A. Williams

ENDNOTES

  • 1 Ileen DeVault, Professor of Labor History at Cornell University’s Industrial and Labor Relations School, quote confirmed on March 9, 2022.
  • 2 U.S. Bureau of Bureau of Labor Statistics, Economic News Release, Union Members Summary, January 20, 2022.
  • 3 Rebecca Shabad, Congressional staffers announce effort to unionize on Capitol Hill, THE HILL, Feb. 4, 2022. 
  • 4 Sara DiNatale, Mississippi Starbucks Workers Want a Union in Oxford, MISSISSIPPI TODAY, Emmerich News, Mar. 7, 2022.
  • 5 Noam Scheiber. A Development in the U.S. Labor Market, the New York Times, June 26, 2026
  • 6  Reed Albergotti, Some U.S. Apple Store employees are working to unionize, part of a growing worker backlash, THE WASHINGTON POST, Feb. 18, 2022.
  • 7 History.com Editors, History, last updated September 1, 2020, originally published October 29, 2009.  https://www.history.com/topics/19th-century/labor