It’s not just about money.Unions fighting for better schedules, safety and working conditions

The last year has seen a surge in union activity, including strikes and organizing efforts, driven by factors far beyond wage rates and benefit packages.

The presidential commission reviewing that labor dispute recommended that both sides agree to a five-year deal that included an immediate 14% pay raise, repayments from 2020, and a 24% pay raise for the duration of the contract. This is less than the 31% wage increase over five years the union is asking for, but more than the 17% previously offered by railroad operators.

or That was enough to get some unions to agree to a provisional deal, but not unions representing more than 90,000 workers, including those who made up two crew members on a freight train. They appear poised to strike unless Congress acts to keep their jobs.

These unions say they have not turned down wage offers.Rather, it Employment rules, staffing, scheduling The proposal they oppose requires that they be ready to go to work on-call and must work 24/7. If it’s just a matter of wages, there’s a good chance that an agreement has already been reached between the two sides.

“We are not going to sit here and argue [wages] Or healthcare. We’re beyond that,” said Jeremy Ferguson, president of the union representing the conductor, who is one of two workers on the freight train along with the engineer.

According to unions, the job situation is pulling thousands of workers out of jobs that would have previously kept them for entire careers, creating an intolerable situation for the rest of the workforce. Changes to these work rules, including, are the main demands.

“Rumors are circulating that these jobs aren’t as attractive as they treat workers,” said Dennis Pearce, president of the union representing engineers. It’s enough.’

Non-economic issues that cause other strikes

And it’s not just rail workers who have reached this breaking point.

is more than 2,000 mental health professionals on strike Against Kaiser Permanente in California and Hawaii. Union members there say understaffing is depriving them of patient care and preventing them from working effectively.

Alexis Petrakis, a member of the union’s bargaining board and a child therapist at Kaiser for the past three years, said he had never been to the union before and did not expect to go on strike this time. However, the poor quality of her care and the company’s inability to schedule new patient visits for up to six weeks due to staffing issues forced her and her colleagues to leave.

“It’s heartbreaking to be away from patients, but what I do remember is that they received inadequate care,” Petrakis said. “This broken system is about to be opened. It needs to change now.

Teachers in Columbus, Ohio went on strike At the beginning of the school year, they complain about overcrowded classes and a dilapidated school where the lack of heating and air conditioning creates a miserable classroom environment. Ohio’s largest school district It was resolved quickly.

Workplace troubles and tidying up rapidly

Complaints about working conditions, safety and quality of life don’t just provoke strikes. They are also ramping up their organizing efforts.

of successful organization At the Amazon fulfillment center in Staten Island, New York, Worker safety concerns early in the pandemic. This was the first successful union vote in history. Amazon (AMZN) institution.
worker safety protocols and the desire to speak out Over 200 Starbucks baristas nationwide voted to join the union For the last 9 months.

These non-economic issues may seem peculiar To But they were behind the very foundations of the American labor movement a century ago.

Employees fighting for safer working conditions and quality of life issues such as weekends, holidays, paid vacations and 40-hour workweeks helped unions establish a foothold in the United States, becoming the first union in the first half of the 20th century. led to the growth of

Union members are not the only ones expressing concern about these issues. Some economists believe that the so-called “big resignation” saw With a record number of workers leaving their jobs from 2021, employees are focusing more on quality of life issues.and they say The pandemic has exposed these issues for many workers.

Beyond the broader workforce impact, concerns about working conditions have led to a surge in union activity.

There have been 263 strikes so far this year, an 84% increase from the same period last year, according to a database maintained by Cornell University.

And data from the National Labor Relations Commission, which oversees the votes, shows that the 826 union elections held at workplaces between January and July this year are a 45% increase from the number held during the same period in 2021. Did. The 70% success rate for unions in these ballots is far better than the 42% in the first seven months of 2021.

Such a surge in activity would never have happened without non-economic issues coming to the fore, union officials say.

“That’s definitely what’s driving the voices of workers across the country. It’s not just a matter of pocketbooks,” said AFL-CIO secretary and treasurer Fred Redmond. “They want their voices to be heard. They work to horrible schedules. Employees are starting to realize their bosses don’t respect their voices. is not respected.”

Experts agree that unions are enjoying renewed success thanks to workers’ anger over non-economic issues.

“Unions are successful when they build on what workers care about,” said Alexander Colvin, dean of the Department of Industrial Relations at Cornell University.

“Schedules, health and safety concerns, these are very important.,” he added. “There is certainly an opportunity for trade unions.”

And experts say these issues are a good sign that union strength will continue.

“The growing importance of non-economic issues suggests a resurgence in the labor movement,” said Todd Vachon, a professor of labor studies at Rutgers University. “The economic demand for labor will decline.


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