WXYZ: Marick Masters on growing union interest in response to COVID
From Amazon to Google and Starbucks, workers at more and more major companies are seeking union representation, some more successfully than others. After workers at Buffalo Starbucks locations voted to unionize in December 2021, a wave of union interest spread in Michigan and around the country. According to the National Labor Relations Board, union petitions were up 57% in the first half of the fiscal year from Oct. 1 to March 31. Marick Masters, a professor at Wayne State University’s Mike Ilitch School of Business, has written extensively on labor issues and says that despite the measurable uptick, union membership in our state is still nowhere near what it used to be. “In 1960, 50% of workers in Michigan were unionized,” he said. It’s currently around 15%, when the private and public sector are combined. “So this is perhaps a tipping point, but it’s too early to tell whether or not this represents a sea-change in union success, either in Detroit, statewide, or nationally,” Masters said. He believes the COVID-19 pandemic was a huge catalyst for the recent wave of union interest. “There’s no doubt that the workers across the nation at Starbucks saw this as an opportunity and wanted to take advantage of it as quickly as possible. And I think that’s one of the reasons why they’ve had success,” he said.