Unions Are Gaining Momentum in Corporate America

By: Anneken Tappe · April 24, 2024 · Reading Time: 3 minutes

It’s a tale of two statistics for unions in the United States. On the one hand, the share of unionized workers hit a new low of 10% in 2023. On the other hand, support for labor unions has steadily risen in recent years after bottoming at 48% in 2009, reaching 67% in August 2023, per a Gallup survey .

That means there is now an historic gap between workers’ preferences and their reality when it comes to unionizing. Anecdotally, however, that gap seems to be narrowing as workers at some of America’s biggest companies increasingly demand union protections.

Union Rebirth

The U.S. has a strong history of labor unions, particularly in the first half of the twentieth century, though the union movement weakened in the second half. But recent unionization success stories seem to inspire more workers to head to the bargaining table.

After negotiating new contracts with Detroit’s “Big Three” automakers, Ford (F), General Motors (GM), and Jeep-parent Stellantis (STLA), the United Auto Workers successfully unionized a Volkswagen (VWAGY) plant in Tennessee last week. The auto union also secured a unionization vote for workers at a Mercedes-Benz (MBGAF) factory in Alabama.

The momentum is building in other industries as well. From UPS (UPS) drivers, to pilots and flight attendants, from Starbucks (SBUX) baristas and Amazon (AMZN) warehouse staff, to Disneyland (DIS) performers and CVS (CVS) pharmacists, workers are asking for more.

Labor Momentum

Unionization efforts can give workers the bargaining power necessary to drive significant company-wide change. In California, after years of lobbying and strikes, fast food workers recently secured an increase in minimum wage from $16 to $25 per hour.

Although the rate of unionized workers is historically low, there is evident momentum across corporate America. Benefits won through labor negotiations are often contagious, so these moves could catalyze more organizing efforts while support for workers is high.

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