News & Commentary

April 27, 2022

Jason Vazquez

Jason Vazquez is a student at Harvard Law School.

Yesterday, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) sent an official letter to President Biden, obtained by POLITICO, urging the President to sign an executive order preventing companies that violate federal labor law from contracting with the federal government, which would fulfill a Biden campaign promise. Sanders pointed out that in the past two decades Amazon has received “thousands of federal contracts with billions of dollars” even though the company has “engaged in illegal anti-union activity” and “spent over $4 million on consultant last year alone in an effort to prevent its warehouses from unionizing.”  Sanders stressed the importance of rebuilding the union movement during this time of “massive income and wealth inequality” and concluded by emphasizing that “the federal government spends more than $600 each year on contracts to thousands of companies who employ more than 4 million contract workers” and these workers, like all workers, “deserve fair pay and benefits, safe workplaces, and the right to a union.” POLITICO further reports that Sanders, as the Senate Budget Committee Chair, will hold a hearing next week to calculate how many federal contracts currently flow to companies fighting unionization efforts, with a special focus on Amazon.

Reuters reported yesterday that the new independent labor union at General Motors Company’s largest plant in Mexico, the National Independent Union for Workers in the Automotive Industry (SINTTIA), which represents more than 6,000 workers at the facility, is seeking an astounding 19.2 percent wage increase in the latest round of contractual negotiations, which the automaker has reportedly countered with a much more modest offer of 3.5 percent, a “slap in the face” according to SINTTIA’s Secretary General Alejandra Morales. Acting under enhanced labor protections furnished by the 2020 North American trade agreement and recent reforms to Mexican labor laws, which I wrote about last year, workers at the GM facility voted to oust a company-sponsored union in August 2021 before choosing to be represented by the newly-formed independent SINTTIA in a high profile election that culminated in a landslide victory for the union in February this year and was celebrated by American labor leaders. The current contract expires on May 31 and Morales insists that the workers would be willing to strike if a deal isn’t reached.

This morning, Fox Business wondered what has been behind the “onslaught of unionization efforts across the nation,” stressing that the number of union representation petitions filed with the National Labor Relations Board increased 57 percent in the first six months of 2022, including organizing efforts at iconic Fortune 500 companies such as Starbucks, Amazon, and Apple. Dave Dodson of the Stanford Business School informed Fox Business that the surge in labor activity is being driven by the wage gap between company owners and managers and employees, not so much by low wages, which, Dodson notes, companies have been raising in recent months. Though it’s certainly true that many workers are infuriated by the exorbitant salaries reaped by corporate executives and the country’s unprecedent levels of income inequality, wages for millions of workers are still far below sufficient to support a decent standard of living. In any event, the fact that Fox Business is covering the labor resurgence may indicate that the recent wave of union activity is starting to concern corporate leaders and investors.

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