Why union efforts are sweeping the nation

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There has been an onslaught of unionization efforts across the nation, and it's targeting Fortune 500 companies like Starbucks, Amazon and Apple. 

Workers are organizing and filing petitions for more union elections than in the past decade, according to the National Labor Relations Board. 

During the first six months of the 2022 fiscal year, the number of union representation petitions filed increased 57%, according to data from the National Labor Relations Board. 

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During the same time, unfair labor practice charges also increased by about 14%, according to labor board officials. An unfair labor practice charge is typically filed with labor board officials when someone believes an employer or union has violated the National Labor Relations Act. 

"The bottom line is … under American labor policy, if you're not taking care of your employees, they have the legal right to join together to amplify their voice," Mark Mix, president of National Right to Work, told FOX Business. 

A supporter holds a sign before the vote count to unionize Amazon workers is announced outside the National Labor Relations Board offices in the Brooklyn borough of New York April 1, 2022.  (Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg via Getty Images / Getty Images)

This fight, though, comes at a time when widespread worker shortages are forcing companies to offer higher wages and better benefits just to retain employees, Dave Dodson of the Stanford Graduate School Of Business told FOX Business. 

So, "you might ask, ‘Why now?’" Dodson said. 

For one, this fight goes way beyond simply asking for higher wages and more benefits, Dodson said.

"It’s not about the size of the pie, it's about how the pie is being divided in our economic system," Dodson added.

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Pro-union pins sit on a table during a watch party for Starbucks employees’ union election, Dec. 9, 2021, in Buffalo, N.Y.  (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex, File / AP Newsroom)

In other words, it's not necessarily wages that is infuriating workers, it's the wage gap between the people who own the companies and their employees, according to Dodson. 

"There's a difference between somebody saying, 'I'm not paid enough and it doesn't feel fair,'" he said. "They're saying it doesn't feel fair." 

Dodson said this distinction is very important. 

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For instance, managers who think this is simply about another dollar per hour or a lower co-pay "are missing the point," Dodson said. This thought process will make it harder for them to win these union fights, he added. 

"These workers are frustrated with how wealth is allocated under our current system, and that’s not easy for management to address," he said. 

It's a "frustration that has been going on for a very, very long time," he added. 

Another thing fueling this labor movement is the fact that employees are longing for a sense of belonging and connection to others, especially throughout the pandemic. 

"So when someone comes and says, 'Let's effectively form a club, let's form an association, let's have some identity around just us,' that has a special draw now that it didn't have two years ago," Dodson said.

Starbucks employee Brian Murray, center, and other employees and supporters react as votes are read during a viewing party for their union election Dec. 9, 2021, in Buffalo, N.Y.  (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex / AP Newsroom)

However, it also matters whose leading the union effort. Employees, for instance, have an easier time connecting to someone like Chris Smalls, who is leading the union push in New York by saying, "Want to go down to the bar? Let's have a beer. Let's talk about our situation. Join our Facebook page," according to Dodson.

Comparatively, it's harder for employees to associate and connect with union leaders who come from Washington to try to tell people how to unionize. 

"We saw in Bessemer that the old way of organizing doesn’t work," Dodson said. "If you are thirsty for social connection, and you think you’re not getting your fair share of the wealth that is being generated, you’re not going to connect with a six-figure union executive who flies in first class from Washington D.C."

Employees voted against forming a union twice at the Amazon facility in Bessemer, Alabama.

AMAZON WORKERS AT STATEN ISLAND FACILITY VOTE IN FAVOR OF UNION, FIRST IN COMPANY'S HISTORY

Still, Strategic Resources Group Managing Director Burt Flickinger told FOX Business that for the first time in three generations "unions are winning" and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. 

Labor organizers are getting more strategic about communicating their message through social media, which is helping them connect to employees like never before, according to Dodson. 

Now, it's as easy as having a "union meeting on your phone" rather than having to gather a group of people off company property to meet, Dodson said. 

APPLE STORE WORKERS START UNION EFFORT, COLLECTING SIGNATURES

Amazon labor organizers and supporters celebrate outside the National Labor Relations Board offices in the Brooklyn borough of New York April 1, 2022.  (Stephanie Keith/Bloomberg via Getty Images / Getty Images)

However, no one is arguing that the battle to the finish line is easy. 

Mix cautioned that even if employees win their union elections, they will face quite a big awakening when they have to start negotiating for everything. Then, once they negotiate that contract, employees in non-right-to-work states, like New York, will be compelled to pay dues or fees to the union in order to keep their job 

"The biggest awakening may be the union dues that come out of their paychecks at the very beginning, and if they don't pay them — if they object — they get fired," Mix said. 

Dodson agreed that "winning is just the beginning" and that it will be a "long fight" to come up with a contract too. But, ultimately, it won't deter employees, he predicted. 

"Having gone through the whole effort of unionization, they're not going to give up, especially when you see this small sliver of our company or this small sliver of America is crushing it and the rest of us are struggling," Dodson added. "You want to win." 

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