What the Trend Toward Unionization Could Mean For Small Businesses

3 min read • May 11, 2022 • Jeanie Croasmun


unions and small business - cnbc - may 2022

Recent news of workers organizing at large employers in the U.S. begs the question: will the same happen at small businesses, too? Credit: CNBC, May 5, 2022.

What It Means: Unions And Small Business

Regardless of where any small business owner sits in the union debate, the fact remains that no one wants an employee-employer relationship to sour. 

While the AFL-CIO lists higher wages, improved benefits, and better workplace conditions as the key drivers for unionization, it may be easier to sum it up as employee frustration — one of the same motivators behind the “Great Resignation,” too. Starbucks employees, for example, have cited everything from corporate greed to COVID working conditions behind their organizing efforts.

Unions small business

A recent article in the New York Times (April 28, 2022) details the motivators behind Starbucks employees who’ve chosen to unionize.

Unions aside, for small business owners, retaining employees is an economically sound strategy. Building a workplace where employees feel safe and valued is the shortlist of “must-dos.” Unlike bigger organizations with teams and processes in place for training, surveys, and wide-ranging improvements, small business owners often need to take the lead in these conversations and tap into external resources to assist with feedback and improvements.

In that case, tackling the following three areas becomes essential:

  1. Compensation (wages and benefits), including competitive market pay and benefits packages and cost-of-living increases. Employees can offer insight into acceptable tradeoffs, too — a team may be more motivated by an employer matching 401K plans than in an all-inclusive, fully paid healthcare plan. 
  2. Workplace conditions (safety and efficiency). This may require investments in upgraded workplace facilities and equipment as well as training. As a bonus, even if external financing is required, upgrades in these areas can result in greater profitability.
  3. Communication (open communication and action), including feedback from employees. Employees may have already brainstormed solutions to the problems they see in their workplace. Discussion and transparency that leads to a compromise solution that works for everyone is the goal here — and ultimately boosts employee retention rates, too.

BTW, a  2021 analysis published by the Brookings Institution noted that union membership frequently “make[s] employees less likely to quit their jobs. A combination of better pay and benefits, more upward mobility, and the ability to exercise voice gives unionized workers reason to stay.” Still, simply ensuring the workplace you’ve built is a place where employees want to be ultimately may have the same effect, too.



Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog post does not, and is not intended to, constitute business, legal, tax, or accounting advice. All information, content, and materials available in this post are for general informational purposes only. For advice specific to their situation, readers should contact their attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor to obtain advice with respect to any particular matter.

Jeanie Croasmun

Jeanie Croasmun is a writer, editor, and all-around news junkie who voluntarily (and gleefully!) listens to economics podcasts while she runs. She writes on current issues and other topics related to small business finance for Lendio.