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Union Organizing Update: What 4 Key Industries Are Unions Targeting under the NLRB’s New Election Rules?

For non-union employers who are working to remain non-union, it is critical to know where unions are focusing their organizing efforts. By the time an employer learns that a union is targeting its employees, the union already has a significant advantage under the National Labor Relations Board’s new organizing rules.

Union Organizing Update: What Four Key Industries Are Unions Targeting under the NLRB’s New Election Rules?

For non-union employers who are working to remain non-union, it is critical to know where unions are focusing their organizing efforts. By the time an employer learns that a union is targeting its employees, the union already has a significant advantage under the National Labor Relations Board’s new organizing rules.

The new rules have allowed unions to obtain elections an average of just 23 days after they formally announced their intentions by filing election petitions. Additionally, the NLRB recently gave unions far more flexibility to “pick and choose” which employees vote in elections. Given that unions won more than two-thirds of elections even before these new rules, it is more important than ever for employers to prepare in advance to defend against union organizing campaigns.

A good way to level the playing field is by monitoring what industries and areas unions are targeting. If a union is targeting other employers in your industry or geographic area, there is a good chance it may be targeting you as well. Thus, monitoring union organizing efforts can give employers valuable additional time to prepare themselves.

For employers who are seeking to utilize this advantage, the following are some of the key industries and geographic areas where unions are currently focusing.

Manufacturers in the Southeast
As northern states continue to enact right-to-work laws and the manufacturing industry continues to move south, unions are focusing even more on the Southeast. The United Auto Workers union in particular has been heavily targeting southeastern plants, such as Volkswagen’s facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee; Hyundai’s facility in Montgomery, Alabama; and Mercedes-Benz’s plant in Vance, Alabama.

Unions also are targeting these manufacturers’ suppliers, with unions obtaining key wins in Kentucky and Alabama recently. Perhaps most significantly, the UAW now claims that over 50 percent of the Chattanooga plant employees support it. If this is true, it will give unions arguably their greatest win yet in the Southeast, and give them yet another foothold as they continue to focus on this area.

Healthcare
Healthcare workers have remained a prime target for union campaigns. These employees typically earn strong wages and benefits, which allows them to pay more union dues. Representing healthcare workers also gives unions more stability, because the industry is expanding and it is more difficult to outsource these functions. Perhaps most importantly, healthcare workers seem particularly amenable to unionization – last year, unions won 77 percent of the elections in this industry.

For these reasons, unions have been heavily targeting employees such as nurses, nursing home workers, and physical therapists. In some cases, unions even have successfully organized doctors. Although unions have experienced much of this success on the West Coast, they have scored key wins in the Midwest as well. For example, unions successfully organized large hospitals in Ohio and Pennsylvania over recent months.

Employers with “White Collar” Workforces
While unions have continued targeting traditional industries like manufacturing, they also have become more creative, focusing on many workforces that historically have not had union representation. For example, the SEIU has been focusing heavily on adjunct faculty members at colleges and universities recently, winning one election in Massachusetts and narrowly losing another in Missouri. These efforts have extended to other “white collar” workers as well, such as employees in the banking/finance industry. For example, earlier this year, one labor union successfully organized workers at a credit union in Akron, Ohio. As set forth above, even doctors have begun joining labor unions in some cases. As the U.S. workforce continues to shift toward office and other non-manual positions, this area likely will remain vulnerable to unionization.

Employers with Expanding Operations
Finally, employers with successful or expanding business models obviously remain a target. For example, as the logistics industry has grown, the Teamsters union has focused heavily on FedEx and its business partners. The Teamsters won an election of FedEx workers in New Jersey in late 2014, but lost another in Illinois last month.

Unions also have been focusing on expanding businesses in the technology field, with the Writers Guild of America successfully organizing employees at digital media company Gawker Media last month. Although Target is more “grown” than “growing,” it has remained in unions’ cross-hairs, and has been the subject of numerous unfair labor practice charges over recent months. As unions continue to become more creative and fight to retain their clout, employers in these industries should be ready to respond to an organizing campaign on short notice.

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