After years of declining membership and tepid contract results, American unions are gaining momentum. In November 2023, following a six-week strike, the UAW (under the leadership of its president, Shawn Fein) secured historic wage increases of over 25% and other benefits.

Unions in other industries, including healthcare, entertainment, and transportation, have also successfully employed a more aggressive approach, as there were almost 400 strikes in 2023. The UAW has vowed to organize Tesla and foreign automakers in the south and is already talking about the pressure it expects to exert in the next contract negotiations.


How Recent Union Success Should be Viewed by Employers

Additionally, unions are gaining in popularity. A recent poll found that two-thirds of Americans support unions. Remarkably, 88% of those thirty and younger had a favorable view of unions. Public opinion was also on the side of the unions during the November strike — one poll indicated that all but 9% favored the UAW over the automakers.

What does this mean for employers? First, while union membership currently remains at only 10% of the national workforce, this combination of an aggressive approach, results, and popularity is likely to result in more organizing campaigns and a higher rate of success for unions.


The risk of an organizing campaign is significant in union-dominated industries or regions with a strong union presence. However, even traditionally secure areas are not immune to such efforts. To maintain a union-free status, employers must prioritize several key strategies:

  1. Competitive Economic Package: Offering a favorable economic package, including competitive wages and benefits, can help discourage employees from seeking union representation. Several non-union automotive companies have raised wages significantly, showcasing the importance of staying competitive in this regard.
  2. Positive Working Environment: Creating a positive work environment characterized by fair treatment, open communication, and opportunities for advancement can contribute to employee satisfaction and reduce the appeal of unionization.
  3. Awareness of Organizing Activities: Employers must stay vigilant and proactive in identifying and addressing potential organizing activities among their workforce. This requires regular communication with employees, attentive observation of workplace dynamics, and promptly addressing any concerns or grievances.
  4. Effective Communication: Clear and transparent communication of the company’s stance on unionization is essential. Employers should articulate the benefits of remaining union-free and address any misconceptions or concerns that employees may have.
  5. Investment in Resources: Allocating ample resources, such as legal support and training for management, to handle potential organizing campaigns is crucial. Employers should be prepared to navigate the complexities of labor relations effectively.

Once a workforce is organized, the dynamics of labor relations can shift significantly. With organized labor, unions typically advocate for their members’ interests through collective bargaining, often pressing for improved wages, benefits, and working conditions.

In situations where a significant portion of union members vote against negotiated contracts, it suggests dissatisfaction or a desire for more substantial concessions. This places pressure on both union leadership, who are expected to deliver better terms, and employers, who may face challenges in meeting increased demands.


Industries with lower profit margins, like automotive suppliers mentioned here, may find it particularly challenging to accommodate aggressive bargaining demands. The threat of strikes or other labor actions adds further complexity, as disruptions to production can have severe financial consequences.

Employers in such situations must carefully assess their bargaining positions, considering both the financial feasibility of meeting union demands and the potential consequences of failing to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement. Difficult decisions may indeed lie ahead, requiring strategic thinking and possibly creative solutions to navigate the negotiations successfully.


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