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Could the Union Victory at VW Set Off a Wave?

BusinessCould the Union Victory at VW Set Off a Wave?


“If workers in Chattanooga get a great contract, a big raise, better health benefits, and then the same thing at Mercedes, there will be a lot more good opportunities to win good contracts in short order,” said Madeline Janis, co-executive director of Jobs to Move America, a group that seeks to create good jobs in clean technology industries.

Ms. Janis, whose group is involved in unionizing factory workers in the South, said the momentum could travel beyond the auto industry to other manufacturers because employees at different companies in the region often know one another and discuss these issues. “Their brothers and sisters and spouses are working at other plants,” she said. “It will be all over social media.”

And some experts said that a rise in unionization at factories could spread to other types of jobs. “The enthusiasm is contagious across sectors,” said David Pryzbylski, a lawyer at Barnes & Thornburg who represents employers. “People look at it and say, ‘Hey, I think there’s something here. Maybe I should be interested in it, too.’”

Several workers echoed the point, saying they had drawn encouragement from labor actions in other industries over the past few years. Successful campaigns in Hollywood and at companies like Starbucks and Apple “have been a major boon for us,” said Emma Geiger, a worker at Sega of America who helped unionize the video game maker last year. “Especially in the perception of unions on the whole as not something to be feared, but to be embraced.”

Overall, nearly 70 percent of Americans say they support unions, according to Gallup, up from about 50 percent a decade and a half ago. After dropping for several years, the number of union members increased by nearly 280,000 in 2022 and by about half that amount last year, though the percentage of workers in unions dropped slightly because even more people entered the work force. Filings for union elections were up 35 percent in the six months ending in March compared with the same period one year earlier, according to the National Labor Relations Board.



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