Some experts think Unions have finally corrected their year-over-year decline in membership. Union campaigns, elections, unfair labor practices, and media attention certainly skyrocketed in 2022. Along with it came union wins to represent architects, doctors, bank employees, and museum workers.
The Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) union successfully organized architects working for Berhheimer Architecture in New York City. The employer voluntarily recognized the union. This was either because the employer supported the union effort, or the employer – like this one – is small; small companies rarely have the capacity to defend against an organizing campaign.
This organizing effort also occurred organically from employees rather than through any effort of IAM. This method is becoming popular among younger, educated workforces. They actively seek union representation as part of a broader social initiative.
These workers do not emphasize wages and benefits as much as they focus on work-life balance, social responsibility, pay transparency, diversity, and the ability to work from home.
Physicians, nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives, and physician assistants at Piedmont Health Services, Inc. are now represented by their own, independent union, Piedmont Health Services Medical Providers United. Interestingly, the employer operates about 11 health care clinics throughout North Carolina, a state where only about 3.5% of the workers are in a union.
Under the National Labor Relations Act, only non-supervisory personnel can be in a union. Doctors are usually, but not always, supervisory personnel. Titles and degrees do not matter, though, when determining whether someone should be in a bargaining unit.
Here, the physicians did not rise to the level of supervisors. They used the same skills on a day-to-day basis as the other employees. They were also not held accountable for their decisions or mistakes made by others working with their patients. Moreover, all employees were organized in the same department, were functionally integrated, shared frequent contact with one another, and shared common supervision.
Wells Fargo employees have been fighting for the right to vote for union representation for a while. Tellers, loan underwriters, information technology specialists, anti-fraud specialists, wealth management advisors, account resolution specialists, and call center employees are leading the charge to join the Communication Workers of America (CWA). If successful, upwards of 150,000 Wells Fargo employees could soon vote to unionize.
This organizing activity has caught the attention of Democrat Senator Sherrod Brown (OH) who is the Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. He has encouraged Wells Fargo to be neutral on the union organizing effort. Sherrod Brown is likely Big Labor’s biggest ally in the Senate. It is no surprise he wants Wells Fargo to remain neutral and not campaign against unionizing effort because employers who remain neutral end up with unions roughly 80% of the time.
Wells Fargo workers have a private Facebook group and are meeting remotely to strategize and formulate positions, proposals, grievances, and common campaign issues. They also have a podcast that workers can listen to and are developing a series of TikTok videos related to organizing. This is quite a juxtaposition: one of the oldest institutions in America – banking – is being organized through the newest technology.
Workers at Chicago’s Field Museum voted to be represented by AFSCME Council 31. This union also represents employees at the Art Institute of Chicago and is seeking to represent professors at the Art Institute’s School.
The bargaining unit includes 330 museum employees with wide ranging duties including collections assistants, exhibit designers, building attendants, and groundskeepers.
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Matt Austin is a nationwide management labor lawyer. Labor laws govern virtually all private-sector employees regardless of union membership. Proactive management of labor relations is critical to maintaining flexibility and increasing profit.
Matt also runs Austin Legal’s HR Legal Compliance Program that, for a small monthly fee, ensures HR decisions are protected by the attorney-client privilege.
Matt’s experience is deeply rooted in helping manage many aspects of his clients’ businesses. To effectively manage labor relations, he must also manage budgets, forecasts, new growth areas, and projected market corrections. High emotional intelligence is also critical to negotiating union contracts and to properly advise HR Legal Compliance members through the nuances of the law, its application to their companies, and how it will be received by employees.
You can reach Matt via email at Matt@MattAustinLaborLaw.com.