Do we need collective bargaining after COVID?

I often get asked about the role of collective bargaining in an economy so affected by the pandemic. Inflation, supply chain issues, worker shortages and worker retention are all real concerns facing businesses and workers. While the causes of these pressures are extraordinary, the role collective bargaining plays in protecting the interests of workers (and often their worksites) is not often understood.

Collective bargaining is the legal act of workers coming together to negotiate with their employers the terms and conditions of employment. This important right recognizes that a worker alone might not have power, but together we are a force to be reckoned with. Through collective bargaining, union workers can receive higher wages, better benefits and safer worksites when compared to nonunion workers.

Though Starbucks workers get a lot of the attention, gig workers, university workers and digital workers are coming together and demanding a union, too, Curry writes.

It is no surprise that anti-union forces often characterize collective bargaining as a process that makes companies unprofitable. When the price of utilities or raw materials go up, these same groups do not cry out that the utilities are anti-company. Workers have no incentive for making their employers uncompetitive — they are interested in longevity with the job. They will be the first to speak out, however, if a company pleads poverty while paying themselves and their investors richly.

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