By Chris Isidore, CNN Business
It’s not just about money.
There has been an increase in union activity – including strikes and organizing efforts – in the past year driven by factors beyond pay rates and benefit packages.
If pay is the only problem, the nation will probably not face the first dangers National Rail Strike In 30 years this coming week, a strike could pull legs out from under Supply chain still suffers be another Huge blow to the US economy.
A presidential committee looking into this labor dispute has recommended agreeing to a five-year contract that includes an immediate 14% increase, a late payment from 2020, and a 24% wage increase over the course of the contract. That’s less than the 31% of the five-year increases the union is seeking, but more than the 17% that the Railroad Department previously provided.
who – which It was enough to get some unions to agree to temporary deals, but not unions representing more than 90,000 workers, including those who make up two-person crews on freight trains. They seem ready to strike unless Congress acts to keep them in business.
Those unions say they do not reject the wage offer. Instead, it is Rules of work, hiring and scheduling The proposals they object to, which require that they be on call, and ready to come to work, seven days a week most times of the year. If it is only about wages, there is likely to be an agreement between the two sides already.
We won’t sit here and argue [wages] or health care. “We’re beyond that,” said Jeremy Ferguson, president of the union that represents conductors, one of the freight train workers along with the engineer.
And unions say working conditions are driving thousands of workers to leave jobs they would have previously held throughout their careers, creating unsustainable conditions for the rest of the workers. Changing these business rules, including an on-demand requirement, is the main requirement.
“Word has come out that these jobs are not attractive in the way they treat workers,” said Dennis Pearce, president of the union of engineers that represents engineers. The staff said, ‘I’ve had enough. “
Non-economic issues driving other strikes
And it’s not just railway workers who have reached this breaking point.
more than 2,000 mental health professionals on strike v. Kaiser Permanente in California and Hawaii. Union members there say inadequate staffing deprives patients of care and prevents them from doing their jobs effectively.
Alexis Petrakis, who has been a union negotiating committee member and child therapist at Kaiser for the past three years, said she had never been in a union before and didn’t expect to go on strike this time. But, she said, the poor quality of care and the company’s inability to schedule visits for new patients for up to six weeks due to staffing problems prompted her and her colleagues to move out.
“Being away from my patients is heartbreaking. But what I come back to is that they weren’t getting enough care,” Betrakis said. The curtain is being lifted on this broken system. It must change now. I’m doing everything I can so taking care of them going forward is better.”
Teachers strike in Columbus, Ohio At the start of the school year he complains of oversized classrooms and dilapidated schools where the lack of heating and air conditioning has created miserable classroom environments. The school district, the largest in Ohio, settled quickly.
Regulation also increases workplace concerns
Complaints about working conditions, safety and quality of life do not only lead to strikes. They also lead to an increase in the organization of efforts.
The A successful union effort At Amazon’s distribution center in Staten Island, New York, it started with Worker safety concerns In the early days of the epidemic. This was the first successful union vote at the Amazon facility.
These non-economic issues may seem unique to me today, but they were behind the founding of the American labor movement a century ago.
Employees fighting for safer working conditions and quality-of-life issues such as weekends, vacations, paid vacation, and forty-hours a week helped unions establish a foothold in the United States and fueled its growth in the first half of the twentieth century.
Union members are not the only ones who have expressed concerns about these issues. Some economists attribute the so-calledbig resignation“Who saw a A record number of workers quit their jobs starting in 2021, to focus employees more on quality of life issues. And they say The pandemic has highlighted these issues for many workers.
Besides the impact it has had on the broader workforce, concerns about working conditions have led to increased union activity.
There have been 263 strikes so far this year, according to a database maintained by Cornell University, up 84% from the same period last year.
And 826 union elections were held in workplaces from January to July of this year, 45% more than the number that was held in the same period in 2021, according to data from the National Labor Relations Board, which oversees the vote. The unions’ success rate of 70% in those votes is much better than the 42% in the first seven months of 2021.
According to union officials, these increases in activity would not have occurred without non-economic issues coming front and center.
“This is definitely what drives the voice of workers across the country. It’s not just pocket issues,” said Fred Redmond, treasurer of the AFL-CIO. They want their voices heard. “.
Experts agree that unions are finding new success due to worker anger over non-economic issues.
“Unions succeed when they build on things that workers worry about,” said Alexander Colvin, dean of the College of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University.
“Schedule, health and safety concerns, these are very important things” he added. “There is definitely an opportunity for guilds there.”
Experts say these issues are a good sign of the union’s continued strength moving forward.
“The growing importance of non-economic issues … suggests a rebirth of the labor movement,” said Todd Vachon, professor of labor studies at Rutgers University. “The economic demand for labor will ebb and flow. The more comprehensive the demands that labor brings to the table, the better they will be able to cope with changes in the economic business cycle.”
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