Labor unions keep fighting as corporations, government agencies push back

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The labor movement is by no means slowing down in New York. In 2022, a poll conducted by Gallup found that 71% of Americans approve of labor unions, indicating the highest approval 

rating since 1965. 

This increase in approval can be seen throughout the country, as we see the number of successful votes to unionize increase. Voices in support of the labor movement continue to rise up throughout the nation, working to drown out those in opposition. 

Home to nearly 4,000 unions, New York is a hub of both union success and conflict. 

The unionization effort within Amazon’s warehouses is one of the most widely known today, garnering a large amount of media attention alongside companies such as Starbucks and Apple. Recently, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that Amazon illegally threatened to withhold raises and benefits from workers at two New York City warehouses if they voted to unionize. 

While U.S. labor law prohibits employers from making threats or promises in order to discourage unionization, corporations continue to use these tactics, and unfortunately continue to succeed at stopping the unionization efforts of their workers. The NLRB’s general counsel seeks to use this recent ruling to put an end to mandatory anti-union meetings, which are a common tool used by employers to discourage unionization. 

The issue of union busting continues to make its way to the forefront of the labor movement, with Amazon historically being a repeat offender. Organizers continue to push forward as business heads and government agencies make efforts to stall or cease movements whenever possible.

Labor leaders throughout New York continue to face pushback from the City. Leaders continue to question why attorneys are needed to negotiate with workers over basic cost of living raises while requiring benefit cut-backs. 

This issue goes back multiple years, with public works laborers going without a contract since 2020. The poor relationship between the Common Council and many of New York’s large unions continues to negatively impact laborers, many of whom have seen no wage increase coupled by an erosion of benefits.  

Starbucks, another company frequently in the news in regards to labor issues, has just received a number of complaints from New York City Starbucks employees, backed by Starbucks Workers United, for breaking local labor laws

Starbucks Workers United is a union recently gaining traction in New York and throughout the United States, with seven unionized locations throughout the five boroughs.

“Starbucks workers have organized more new unions in a 12-month period than any US company in the past 20 years,” said Michelle Eisen, a national leader for Starbucks Workers United. 

Starbucks Workers United aided New York Starbucks employees in their efforts to file complaints against the corporation for violating New York City’s Fair Work Week Law, holding Starbucks accountable for their violations and working to protect the rights of workers. 

While there are a record number of successful union votes, union members continue to fight for contracts. Amazon’s JFK8 warehouse, which successfully voted to unionize in April of 2022, remains without a contract nearly a year later, with Amazon refusing to acknowledge the successful vote. 

Amazon is not the only company avoiding the bargaining table – Starbucks has over 250 union stores, but zero contracts. The company continues to avoid bargaining conversations sending out lawyers who won’t even spend five minutes in a room with union members. 

Union efforts in New York don’t stop at large corporations. 

Recently, legislative staffers in the New York State Senate and Assembly have announced their intention to organize. The movement towards organization has been backed by the New York State AFL-CIO, Civil Service Employees Association, Public Employees Federation and 1199SEIU as staffers in the Senate and Assembly look to negotiate a fair contract and benefits. Assembly and Senate staffers are following footsteps of staffers in the New York City Council who successfully unionized and created The Association of Legislative Employees (ALE). 

The ALE returned to the bargaining table in February, calling for a living wage and overtime compensation, taking steps towards finalizing a contract. 

While the fight continues for many, there are recent successes that show this hard work does pay off. 

NYC’s largest municipal workers union, DC 37, announced that they arrived at a tentative contract agreement with Mayor Eric Adams in February. This would be the mayor’s first large labor deal since taking office in 2022. 

In January, nurses from Mount Sinai South Nassau voted to join the New York State Nurses Association, becoming the final facility of Mount Sinai unionize. 

Labor leaders all throughout New York continue to advocate and fight for workers across the state, facing up against corporate and government forces to ensure they receive what every worker is entitled to – a living wage, benefits, and a safe working environment. 

As the labor fight continues into 2023, the outlook for success remains bright.