Workers’ newfound leverage and organizing momentum only seems to grow month by month. Kellogg’s and John Deere workers went on strike late last year. Starbucks workers in Buffalo have ushered in an organizing domino effect at the coffee corporation. COVID-19 has inspired sickouts and walkouts among the rank-and-file. It’s a perpetual Striketober.
But beyond the victorious headlines is a legion of workers who aren’t officially unionized, yet are building solidarity and pressuring their bosses for better pay, benefits, and respect in their own ways. Their efforts to form a union are littered with hurdles that keep union rates half as high as about four decades ago and it has been declining since the late 1950s.
More than half a dozen workers, organizers, or both across the country told Prism about the direct and indirect barriers they face in their organizing efforts keeping their workplaces non-union. Some face blatant union busting. Others are fearful of retaliation or getting fired—both illegal, yet resource intensive to enforce. They also see an overall culture in the U.S. of a quit-and-get-out mentality when it comes to low-paying jobs.