The Unionization of America

Adreon Patterson
4 min readSep 5, 2023

Amazon Labor Union

This movement began in 2020 after warehouse workers for the online retailer Amazon started speaking out against workplace conditions, including unrealistic quotas and harsh employee treatment.

ALU founders Chris Smalls and Derrick Palmer’s efforts led to several New York Amazon warehouses pushing for unionization. Since then, the duo’s efforts have led to more United States warehouses seeking unionization. So far, JFK8 in New York is the only unionized Amazon.

Starbucks Workers United

Sparks of a union began in 2020 as the Elmwood Avenue Starbucks in Buffalo, New York, under the leadership of Jaz Brisack. Labor shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the store staff deciding to unionize.

After the Buffalo-area store successfully unionized in 2021, it sparked over 150 stores in the United States to push for unionization. As of August 2023, over 330 stores have organized throughout the U.S. The Lancaster, Pennsylvania store became the latest one to unionize.

Alphabet Workers Union

For years, Google workers across different experience levels have gathered strength in voicing their concerns regarding work conditions and culture. The tech union became official in January 2021, which followed a year of secret organizing.

The AWU is part of an effort by tech industry workers to create a fair and safe work environment in Silicon Valley. The tech workers’ actions inspired companies like NPR and The New York Times to do the same. However, Google workers’ efforts dealt a blow when Google laid off employees, including union members.

Digital Media Unionization

Over the last decade, workers from multiple new media outlets have pushed for unionization. This push started in 2015 after media companies, including The Guardian, Vice, and Salon, voted to unionize.

The press didn’t recognize these efforts until 2020. By that time, multiple outlets like Bustle, People, and Hearst chose to unionize during the COVID pandemic. As of August 2023, over 100 new media outlets have chosen to unionize with or without the support of their respective organizations. Workers at several radio stations and press magnet Conde Nast joined the unionization in 2022.

UPS (Package Division)

UPS has built a strong union over a century among US-based package delivery services. The workers have worked with the Teamsters to negotiate and secure the best contracts. However, in recent months, the expiration of their five-year contract led to a push for more equity, especially for part-time employees and contractors.

After threats of a nationwide strike, employees and the Teamsters reached a deal with UPS to accept their new five-year contract. The contract was ratified in an unprecedented vote by UPS workers.

WGA and SAG-AFTRA Strikes

Multiple unions in Hollywood have safeguards in place for all creatives to thrive. Two of the most prominent organizations — Writers Guild of America (WGA) and Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) — have worked to make the TV and film industry a level playing field since the 20th century. However, recent developments led the two unions to shut down Hollywood for the foreseeable future.

In 2023, all the Hollywood guilds negotiated their respective contracts with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). While some unions were successful, talks between the organization and WGA fell through in May after disagreements over residuals, work conditions, and AI. That’s when the writers authorized a strike. SAG suffered the same pushback over the same issues from producers. So, in July, actors officially went on strike. Since then, there has been speculation over when talks between the guilds and AMPTP would resume.

United Automobile Workers

Since 1935, the UAW has worked consistently to develop innovative partnerships with employers and negotiated industry-leading wages and benefits for its members. However, the union declined after the 1970s following the introduction of automation and globalization. The organization saw a spike following the pandemic. This uptick led to a recent development where the workers and automakers disagreed over contract negotiations.

In 2023, auto workers from the Big 3 — General Motors, Ford Motor, and Stellantis — began renegotiating their contracts. The talks between union leader Shawn Fain and the companies broke down over the issues of tiered employment and contract workers. The process has spawned multiple complaints against the Big 3 to the NLRB. The UAW hasn’t authorized an official strike despite talks of a possible one.

Marvel VFX Union

In light of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, a group of Marvel visual effects professionals chose to unionize after years of working on multiple blockbuster films for a decade. This development came after several Marvel vis effects artists complained about poor working conditions. The group brought up issues, including unrelenting overtime and constantly changing deadlines. Their complaints came on the heels of criticisms from critics and fans about the quality of MCU’s effects.

The artists announced this effort for a vote on August 21, with ballots due by September 12. This motion marked the first time visual effects professionals were seeking to unionize at any major film studio.

Originally published at http://adreonpatterson.net on September 5, 2023.

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Adreon Patterson

A multi-faceted creator trying to change the world one word at a time. Check out more at https://adreonpatterson.net