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US data show big jump in unionization campaigns in fiscal 2022

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Workers at a Buffalo Starbucks celebrate in December 2021 after they established the chain's first union at a US store./AFP
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Jul 14, 2022 - 09:49 AM

NEW YORK — The number of unionization campaigns has jumped in the 2022 fiscal year, according to federal data released Wednesday, reflecting how the tight US labor market has created opportunity for organized labor.

Through the first three quarters of fiscal 2022 — from October 1 to June 30 — there were 1,935 unionization campaigns filed with the National Labor Relations Board, up 56 percent from the prior year.

The surge in union drives has been a feature of the Covid-19-era US economy, which has also seen an uptick in strikes at John Deere, Kellogg’s and elsewhere amid dissatisfaction with labor conditions and pay levels.

Campaigners have won elections at more than 100 Starbucks stores. Labor also prevailed in a hard-fought election at an Amazon warehouse in April, although Amazon has contested the vote.

These efforts have raised hopes of a possible reversal in the long-running decline of US unionization since the 1980s. The rate fell to 10.3 percent in 2021, with an even lower percent of the private sector unionized.

The NLRB said it is also seeing an uptick in unfair labor practice charges, which are up 14.5 percent, with more union campaigns prompting accusations of violations by employers.

That increase is posing challenges for the agency, which has had a flat budget since 2010, translating into a 25 percent drop when adjusted for inflation. Overall staffing is down 39 percent since 2002, the NLRB said in a news release.

“The NLRB is processing the most cases it has seen in years with the lowest staffing levels in the past six decades,” said NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo.

“The Agency urgently needs more resources to process petitions and conduct elections, investigate unfair labor practice charges, and obtain full remedies for workers whose labor rights have been violated.”

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