Unionization Efforts and New York Law

If you follow the news, you have probably heard about the high profile union strikes involving the screen writers and actors and, even more recently, the strike by the United Auto Workers.  In previous blog posts, we have discussed the unionization efforts in Amazon warehouses and Starbucks locations.

There is no question that unionization and union activity has increased in recent years across the United States.  Cornell University maintains a strike database showing that from September 1 of last year until August 31 of this year, unions initiated 70 strikes with 100 or more workers participating for more than a week.  This statistic represents a 40% increase from the same period the year before.

Strikes are not only about increased wages.  When freight railroad workers went on strike, they were looking, in part, for more paid sick leave.  Healthcare workers have struck for increased staffing.  The screen writers and actors are looking for protections against the use of artificial intelligence in the industry. 

Not all recent strikes have met with success, but a majority have. 

What does this mean for employers?  Pay attention to your workforce because the likelihood of union activity is increasing.  Be aware that benefits such as paid sick leave and working conditions may be as important to workers as the amount of their wages.

Understand the options available to you as an employer when there are unionization stirrings in your workforce.  New York State recently passed a law prohibiting employers from refusing to hire, discharging or otherwise discriminating against an employee who refuses to attend an employer-sponsored meeting when the primary purpose of the meeting is to communicate “the employer’s opinion concerning religious or political matters.”  The definition of “religious or political matters” specifically includes labor organizations.  In other words, it is now unlawful for employers in New York to hold mandatory meetings in an effort to dissuade employees from organizing or joining a union.  This prohibition also includes requiring employees to listen to a speech or view communications for the purposes of dissuading them from unionizing.

New York is the fourth state to prohibit such meetings, joining Connecticut, Maine and Minnesota. 

For the text of the New York law, visit https://legislation.nysenate.gov/pdf/bills/2023/s4982.