Last YEAR in Southern Labor: Tallies and Biggest Labor Stories from 2023
By JACOB MORRISON | January q6, 2024
We're taking a little break from our usual Last Week in Southern Labor round-up to take a summarized look back at some numbers on union growth and some of the biggest labor stories of 2023.
NLRB ELECTIONS IN 2023
CLOSED ELECTIONS (INCLUDING ‘22 HOLDOVERS)
492 (416 from 2023 filings, 76 from 2022 filings)
219 (179 from 2023, 40 from 2022 filings)
NEW UNION WORKERS FROM NLRB ELECTIONS
STATES WITH MOST ELECTIONS*
WASHINGTON DC: 65
*Just for comparison with our home state: Alabama had 10 elections
BIGGEST NLRB WINS
- Duke University in Durham NC, 2500, Graduate workers, Workers United
- Emory University in Atlanta GA, 1722, graduate workers, Workers United
- Blue Bird in Fort Valley GA, 1350, bus manufacturers, USW
- DHL in Erlanger KY, 900, logistics workers, Teamsters
- University Medical Center in LA, hospital workers, NNU
- Jetstream Ground Services in Charlotte NC, 475, ramp workers, SEIU
BIG LABOR STORIES
- The UAW obviously is the biggest labor story in the country, and therefore the South, in 2023. From the election bringing in a brand new slate of elected officials, doing the impossible and ousting the Administration Caucus from it’s impenetrable fortress atop the United Auto Workers, to negotiations and a strike against all three of the Big 3 auto makers that resulted in record wins for auto workers including for some temporary workers nearly doubling their wages immediately on ratification, and rounding out with the most ambitious organizing campaign since the CIO’s Operation Dixie in the 40s. While more of the Big 3 operations are outside the south, there are still several facilities across the region, including Louisville’s Ford Truck Plant, which produced 50% of the company’s profits the year before. If the organizing campaign goes well though, the UAW will significantly increase its influence in the South, as that is where the nonunion auto makers have set up shop.
- In any other year though, the mighty struggle the Teamsters engaged in against UPS would’ve been the standout story. Involving more than 300,000 workers nationwide, the Teamsters were able to extract significant gains without a strike, because the strike threat was credible. With the minimum wage now set at $21/hr, this will be a particular boon for workers in the South with a lower cost of living where $21/hr can go a long way. While they haven’t done anything as splashy as the UAW after their big conflict, they have been quietly organizing DHL workers, and loudly striking the first and only unionized Amazon delivery service provider. They rounded out the year gearing up for a potential strike at Anheuser-Busch.
- Starbucks Workers United has continued to notch wins, dozens and dozens of new stores in 2023, and escalating their strike actions. Still no movement on a contract though.
- The UMWA ended its nearly two year long strike against Warrior Met early in 2023, but unfortunately the struggle is not over. The workers still don’t have a contract, the company is stonewalling at the bargaining table, and Warrior Met is refusing to let 41 strike leaders back on the job.
- Newsrooms are continuing to organize including right here in the south, with journalists in Mississippi being among the most recent to unionize.
- Child labor dominated headlines in 2023, both in that, it just happens a lot and people are noticing, and also in that Republicans in state houses across the country are seeing that and thinking, “we should have more of that,” and proposing laws to loosen regulations around child labor.
- The biggest story politically for the last quarter of 2023 was certainly the conflict in Israel and Palestine. While labor generally has been pretty quiet, even that is a break from their incredibly vocally pro-Israel past. Leading the way in calls for justice in the region were some of the usual progressive unions like UE and the APWU, with the UAW rounding out the list of big name unions calling for a permanent ceasefire. The issue continues to be a contentious one, but the direction is clear, and Israel continues to erode what good will it has left.
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