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Home » Recent News » New Gains Create Momentum for Organizing in 2023

New Gains Create Momentum for Organizing in 2023


Energized by new legislative wins, Democrats are working to help union organization efforts by tackling policies that weaken unions, such as right-to-work laws and employer-mandated captive audience meetings in which employees are warned against organizing or joining a union. Meanwhile, union leaders seek to strengthen National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) funding and staffing to further protect organizing efforts.

The surge of labor union organizing that began during the pandemic—including unprecedented efforts at Amazon warehouses, Starbucks cafés, Apple retail stores, and video game developers—shows no sign of slowing down. In December, Starbucks workers at 100 stores around the US planned a three-day strike as part of their effort to unionize the coffee chain’s stores. It was the second major strike in a month by Starbucks workers. On November 17, employees at 110 Starbucks stores held a one-day walkout, which coincided with Starbucks’ busy annual Red Cup Day, when the company gives away reusable cups to customers who order a holiday drink. More than 264 of Starbucks’ 9,000 company-run stores have voted to unionize.

These union efforts were boosted by a ruling from the NLRB. The Democratic-appointed members threw out a standard adopted in 2017 (when it had a Republican appointee majority) for deciding whether groups of workers with distinct jobs can hold elections to form bargaining units. The labor board revived a 2011 standard, which states that bargaining units are appropriate as long as the workers within them do not share an “overwhelming community of interest” with other employees.

Union leaders say a robust NLRB is critical as organizing surges nationwide. AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler and the presidents of more than 40 unions have called upon Congress to increase the agency’s funding as it struggles to keep up with a vast caseload. The NLRB’s funding level, unchanged since 2014, impairs its ability to expedite hearings and investigate unfair labor practice charges. In addition, staffing levels have fallen behind the growth of the private-sector workforce.

In 2022, workers filed 2,510 union representation petitions—a 53% increase from 2021 and the highest number of union representation petitions since 2016. The total caseload increased by 23%. It is the single largest case increase in 46 years and largest percentage increase in more than 60 years.

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