Labor union membership in the US is on the decline and unions are looking to Gen Z as their meal ticket to reverse this historic slump.
As our most progressive generation yet, Gen Z has already shown broad support for unions. Polling shows about 65 percent of Gen Z members approve of labor unions. 60 percent of Gen Z are also on Tik Tok – which has become a go-to social media platform among union organizers. It also doesn’t hurt that these young workers have little experience with unions and the hypocrisy that has plagued the labor movement for decades.
Workers United, the union working to organize Starbucks workers throughout the country, is a prime example. The union has marketed itself toward younger, progressive workers and utilized social media to activate this base of supporters.
The strategy is working. Working United actually gained 7,400 new members in 2022 despite the national drop in union membership.
Its young leadership, prolific Tik Tok account, and support from highly progressive politicians including Senator Bernie Sanders makes Starbucks Workers United in particular seem shiny and new to workers who have never been a part of a union. In reality, Workers United is a long-established union that suffers from the same hypocrisy as its counterparts.
For instance, most young workers targeted by the union probably don’t know that Workers United is the largest shareholder at Amalgamated Bank. The bank reports some decidedly un-progressive investments to the US Securities and Exchange Commission, including fossil fuels, firearms manufacturers, private prisons, and even tear gas producers.
This shouldn’t come as a shock. Workers United is an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which seems to have maintained a “do as we say not as we do” policy over the years.
The SEIU was an outspoken supporter of the Me Too movement. But in 2020, one of the SEIU’s largest locals, SEIU United Healthcare Workers West (UHW), settled a “contentious” sexual-harassment lawsuit filed against the union by a former union employee. The lawsuit and subsequent testimony from union employees depict a union “plagued by sexual misconduct scandals.”
Some of the top union officials mentioned in the lawsuit continue to hold high-ranking positions at the union. As for SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, it appears she knew of the accusations and failed to take action against potential sexual predators. Staffers claimed their attempts to report misconduct were ignored.
Even more recently, the SEIU violated its favorite motto: “union busting is disgusting.” SEIU Local 2015, one of the union’s largest chapters in California, was caught in a contract battle with its staff union, Chapter 15 of the Pacific Northwest Staff Union. The union staff ended up going on strike.
In response, the SEIU’s human resources manager was seen driving her pickup truck into the picket line. There were allegations that SEIU managers recorded the protest, a potential violation under the National Labor Relations Act, along with several other tactics the SEIU would have been quick to criticize management for engaging in. Apparently, union-busting is okay when it’s at the hands of the union itself.
A similar scenario just took place at the SEIU’s headquarters. Staffers represented by the Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 2 went to the SEIU’s office to demand it start “acting like a union” and bargain for a fair contract with its employees. But according to Local 2, the staff members were locked out.
As Gen Z enters the workforce, unions are jumping at the opportunity to make up their dwindling membership numbers. But without doing their homework, these green workers will learn the hard way that unions often claim to hold the same values as their rank and file – but it’s their actions that speak volumes.
Charlyce Bozzello is the communications director at the Center for Union Facts, a 501c3 nonprofit dedicated to transparency and accountability in today’s labor movement.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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