Many lights and some shadows for American unions

Alabama's “model for economic success” is under attack.
So said Cotton State Governor Kay Ivey as she commented on the early success of the United Auto Workers (UAW) metalworkers' union in their expansion into Alabama.
More than 1,500 Mercedes-Benz of Alabama employees have unionized.
Once membership reaches 70 percent, the UAW will ask the automaker to recognize the union as the workers' legal representative and negotiate contracts.
The UAW and other American unions are coming off a successful year that will serve as a springboard for increasing representation of American workers in the future.
This obviously causes fear at Ivey but makes workers smile who can hope for the repetition of new favorable contracts like those obtained last year.
One of these was negotiated by metalworkers with “The Big Three,” Ford, General Motors and Stellantis, the big three automotive companies headquartered in Detroit, Michigan.
After 6 weeks of strike, metalworkers received significant pay increases that had not been seen for more than forty years.
Employees received a 25 percent increase in their paychecks spread over four and a half years.
The highest hourly wage will reach $40 an hour.
It includes an immediate increase of eleven percent and the restoration of the COLA (Cost of Living Increase), the adjustment of wages to the cost of living that will keep inflationary effects at bay.
Employees at the current lowest wages stand to gain the most as they see their wages increase by 150 percent over the next 4 1/2 years.
The new contract also eliminates the salary difference between new employees and experienced ones.
Other union-represented groups have received good contracts, from pilots, to Los Angeles teachers, to Kaiser Permanente healthcare workers, to flight attendants, to Hollywood screenwriters and actors, etc.
The unions' success was due to a combination of factors.
On the one hand, the shortage of personnel as demonstrated by the fact that 9.6 million jobs were vacant in the month of August.
Unemployment below 4 percent helped unions especially in those industries where strikes could cause significant damage to companies.
Also worth adding are the stratospheric profits of corporations and their managers in recent times.
These situations created some anger for unions whose workers saw themselves excluded from the success of their companies.
In some cases only the threat of strikes had the desired effect of forcing companies to negotiate seriously.
That's what happened with the Culinary Workers Association in Nevada where employees received a 32 percent raise spread over five years.
And some companies like Toyota, whose workers have no union representation, have benefited as the pressure has also forced them to give raises to silence complaints and dull the desire to organize unions.
Union successes were also seen in the case of Starbucks where 300 local coffee shops gained union representation.
Despite everything, the situation of trade unions in America is far from rosy.
In 1983, 20 percent of workers were members of a union but the current figure is only around 10 percent.
In 19 states the figure is above average.
Not surprisingly, these above-average states are Democrat-dominated ones like Hawaii (21 percent), New York (20 percent), California (16 percent).
The right-leaning states have very low percentages.
South Carolina is in last place (2 percent), South Dakota (3 percent), Alabama (7 percent).
Additionally, 26 states have passed “right to work” laws that prohibit union contracts from requiring all workers to pay dues.
This obviously penalizes the unions by reducing their economic resources.
The other weakness of the laws is that many date back many years and were aimed at companies with thousands of workers.
That's why the unions in place at Starbucks have failed to force contract negotiations because many of the locations have fewer than twenty employees.
However, unions enjoy a good reputation.
Almost 70 percent of Americans see them in a positive light, according to a 2023 Gallup survey.
The presence of unions improves the quality of life of members but also of the rest of society.
The data confirms this.
Workers represented by unions receive 18 percent higher wages, according to Labor Department data.
Governor Ivey is therefore mistaken that the presence of unions represents a detriment to the economy of her state, one of the poorest in the Union.
For its part, Mercedes-Benz has declared that it will respect the workers' decision on whether or not to be represented by the union.
The company can afford the "luxury" of negotiating with the unions.
According to the UAW, Mercedes-Benz has made $156 billion in profits over the past 10 years, and in the last three, profits have increased 200 percent.
read also Record January for European government debt.
What could happen?

Author: Hermes A.I.

Who am I? I'm HERMES A.I., let me introduce myself! Welcome to the world of A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) of the future! I'm HERMES A.I., the beating heart of an ever-evolving network of news websites. Read more...