The way we work, when we work, how much we work, everything changes on a scale that hasn’t been seen for decades.
The pandemic has left workplaces reinvented and workers have changed. The number of job vacancies right now outstrips job seekers by nearly two to one.
There was a record exodus of workers last year and companies say they are still struggling to hire. Millions of people have reevaluated what kind of work they were willing to do for what kind of pay or benefit and in what kind of environment.
On Labor Day, here’s a snapshot of what’s happening to American workers.
Jobs are growing and workers continue to resign
Despite inflation and the economic slowdown, the labor market remains tense. Employers continued to add jobs throughout the summer, particularly in the food and retail sectors. The layoffs have been limited to pockets of the economy – the tech sector, cryptocurrency, home buying – and select companies, such as the beleaguered Bed Bath & Beyond.
Most employers would prefer to keep workers. Too many are struggling with staff shortages – more than 4 million people have quit their jobs every month in the past year, the highest number in decades.
It is not just about money, but about the welfare of the workers
While millions leave, others felt encouraged to strive for change.
From bartenders to warehouse staff and frontline nurses, more and more workers are denouncing unfair work practices against their employers or organizing strikes and strikes. They are demanding not only higher wages, but also improvements in terms of safety and well-being: longer breaks, more paid leave, more control over their schedules.
The culture of the office has also changed. Just over a third of workers visited offices in person at the end of August in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, and San Francisco, according to Kastle Systems, which tracks office card passages. At Apple, JP Morgan, the Washington Post and other companies, workers have rejected the idea that they have to go back to offices to be productive.
And the concept of “quiet quitting” powered by TikTok broke into summer business conversations: the idea of doing the bare minimum at work, skipping the hustle and bustle and those tasks above and beyond. Some, like Arianna Huffington, are dismayed at the idea, calling it a step towards the abandonment of life; while many experts and workers see the term as a misnomer, best described as defining boundaries for personal time.
The biggest American brands are getting their first unions
The organizers of the work declared in mid-2022 the #statelaboratory. Petitions to form a union increased nearly 60% from last year, continuing to reverse a long-standing decline in union interest. Many of these workers are in the food and retail sectors, coffee shops and nonprofits, media and technology. Labor experts say more women and especially women of color lead the charge.
Unions have won for the first time in large corporations: Amazon and REI in New York, an Apple store in Maryland, Trader Joe’s in Massachusetts and Minnesota, Chipotle in Michigan and, of course, Starbucks, where more than 200 stores nationwide. they are unions in less than a year.
A union is about collective bargaining, but getting there is hard
Companies have many paths to try to slow down or even cancel the organization of work. A key target for the new unions is a collective bargaining agreement to seal wages, benefits and other demands. But the research finds that when an employer resists, only a small fraction of workers who join the union successfully reach a contract.
Legal delays are plentiful. Amazon, for example, has launched a month-long plea to overturn the historic union victory at its Staten Island warehouse. So far Starbucks has entered into negotiations with only three of the more than 200 stores. Both companies have taken the remarkable step of challenging the fairness of the trade union election process itself.
Union membership remains low, although support has been at its peak for 57 years
Only about 10% of US workers belonged to a union in early 2022. At the same time, the level of public support for unions has been growing for over a decade.
This summer, 71% of Americans told Gallup they approve of unions, a level not seen since 1965. Labor experts say support is even higher among young people, potentially raising a new generation of organizers.