Tight labor markets empower workers more than any union. That’s why it’s unlikely that the 7,500 Amazon workers at the JFK8 plant in Staten Island, New York, who are voting today on whether to join the Amazon Labor Union, will choose to be organized. Voting at Amazon’s LDJ5 plant (also in Staten Island), which employs 1,500 workers, will take place next month.
Last April, more than 84 percent of the workers in the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, rejected the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. The vote wasn’t even close—it was a decisive win for the workers that didn’t want a union. The National Labor Relations Board required a revote, with votes to be counted next week, but this will not likely change the result. The United Auto Workers lost a revote at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tennessee plant in 2019, when margins were narrower.
Workers don’t need unions because the economy is booming, and workers face a sellers’ market for their skills. They also don’t want to pay substantial union dues. And they understand that the union agenda would drive jobs offshore.
Over the past year, the American economy has created more than 7 million jobs. Production earnings rose by 7 percent, and the labor-force participation rate increased by almost a full percentage point. In February of this year, the economy created 678,000 jobs. The forecast for March, due out April 1, is similar. The unemployment rate stands at 3.8 percent.
The labor market is getting tighter. Amazon workers have more bargaining power without a union than they did a year ago. Moreover, with almost 11 million unfilled jobs, employees have their pick of other positions if they want to move. People at all income levels, including adults without a high school diploma, are getting jobs, and they don’t need unions to advance.
Union dues can be steep. For example, monthly dues for membership in the Teamsters Local 665 in San Francisco amount to 2.5 times the hourly wage. A worker making the national average hourly earnings of $30 would pay $75 a month, or $900 a year. With inflation running at 8 percent, every dollar counts.
Workers realize that the union agenda promotes rigid workplace rules, rather than the flexible hybrid environment workers want. The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act would levy new criminal fines of $50,000 to $100,000 on employers for each unfair labor practice, such as making a mistake in an employer handbook, and give unions access to employer email systems to communicate with workers. Such policies would drive some companies out of business and encourage others to move offshore, reducing jobs in America, limiting opportunities for entry into the workforce, and stalling upward mobility.
Though a 2021 Gallup poll showed that unions are popular with Americans, union trends don’t match the poll. The rate of unionization went down in 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, another step in a steady decline. In 2021, the public-and private-sector union membership rate was 10.3 percent—down from 20.1 percent in 1983, when the Labor Department started keeping records. Private-sector union membership has declined more steeply, from 16.8 percent in 1983 to 6.1 percent in 2021. That’s because workers have upward mobility without unions—and prefer to keep the dues money for themselves.
Many workers are choosing to leave their current jobs for ones with better pay or benefits. They’re doing what’s best for themselves, rather than paying union dues for a collective bargaining agreement. Amazon workers in Staten Island will likely do the same.
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