Amazon employees don’t need a union

Tight labor markets empower workers more than any union. That’s why the 7,500 Amazon workers at the JFK8 plant in Staten Island, New York, who vote today to join the Amazon Workers Union, are unlikely to choose to organize. Voting at Amazon’s LDJ5 plant (also on Staten Island), which employs 1,500 workers, will take place next month.

Last April, more than 84 percent of Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama, rejected the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. The vote wasn’t even close: it was a decisive victory for workers who didn’t want a union. The National Labor Relations Board has required a new vote, and the votes will be counted next week, but this is not likely to change the outcome. The United Auto Workers lost a new vote at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 2019, when the margins were slimmer.

Workers don’t need unions because the economy is booming and workers face a seller’s market for their skills. They also don’t want to pay substantial union dues. And they understand that the union agenda would boost jobs abroad.

Over the past year, the US economy has created more than 7 million jobs. Production revenue rose 7 percent and the labor force participation rate rose nearly a full percentage point. In February of this year, the economy created 678,000 jobs. The forecast for March, which is due on April 1, is similar. The unemployment rate stands at 3.8 percent.

The labor market is becoming stricter. Amazon workers have more bargaining power without a union than they did a year ago. It’s more, with nearly 11 million job vacancies, employees can choose from other positions if they want to change. People at all income levels, including adults without a high school diploma, are getting jobs and don’t need unions to get ahead.

Union dues can be high. For example, monthly dues for membership in Teamsters Local 665 in San Francisco they amount to 2.5 times the hourly wage. A worker earning the national hourly average of $30 would pay $75 a month, or $900 a year. With 8 percent inflation, every dollar counts.

Workers realize that the union agenda promotes rigid rules in the workplace, rather than the flexible hybrid environment that workers want. the Protection of the Right to Organize Law (PRO) impose new criminal fines of $50,000 to $100,000 on employers for each unfair labor practice, such as making a mistake in the employer handbook, and give unions access to employer email systems to communicate with workers. Such policies would drive some companies out of business and encourage others to move abroad, reducing jobs in the United States, limiting opportunities to enter the workforce, and halting upward mobility.

Even though a 2021 Gallup poll showed that unions are popular with Americans, union trends do not match the survey. The unionization rate fell in 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, another step in a steady decline. In 2021, the public and private sector union membership rate was 10.3 percent—down from 20.1 percent in 1983, when the Department of Labor began keeping records. Private-sector union membership has fallen more steeply, from 16.8 percent in 1983 to 6.1 percent in 2021. That’s because workers are upwardly mobile without unions and prefer to keep dues money.

Many workers are choosing to leave their current jobs for jobs with better pay or benefits. They are doing what is best for them, instead of paying union dues for a collective agreement. Amazon workers on Staten Island will likely do the same.

Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

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