Readers Say

Here’s how Boston.com readers feel about the rise in labor organizing

"A class-conscious worker is an empowered worker."

Bus drivers on Martha's Vineyard strike during a contract dispute in 2018. Erin Clark for The Boston Globe

You may have recently noticed growing labor organizing efforts across the country, but it’s a trend that’s also happening here in Massachusetts. 

In the wake of union drives at large corporations like Starbucks and Amazon, as well as small local businesses like City Feed and Supply and Amherst Theater, we asked readers how they felt about recent unionization efforts, and whether they support labor organizing. 

Most of the 30 readers who shared their thoughts with Boston.com said they were in favor of more labor organizing, and those opposed expressed concerns about what unions would mean for productivity in the workplace. Eleanor W. from Maine said the increase in union drives across the country is a good thing. 

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“A class-conscious worker is an empowered worker,” she said. 

Do you support the right of workers to unionize?
Yes
57%
17
No
27%
8
It depends.
17%
5

Support for new union activity seems to be reflected nationally. Union election petitions filed to the National Labor Relations Board have increased by 57% from October 2021 through March 2022, according to the National Labor Relations Board.

“Right now, there is a surge in labor activity nationwide, with workers organizing and filing petitions for more union elections than they have in the last ten years,” NLRB general counsel Jennifer Abruzzo said in a recent statement

One reader who did not disclose his name said he’s been a member of a union for over a decade and supports the legal right to unionize, but said he wasn’t confident saying that unions were good for society as a whole. 

“As an employee, I benefit from wages and benefits that are certainly better than I would get in a non-union role. However, the union also creates a culture of laziness and entitlement that is anathema to efficiency and effectiveness,” he said. 

In his experience, the union has made managers hesitant to criticize low-performing workers and created an environment about “doing hours rather than doing work.” 

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Unions memberships have been on the decline in the United States for decades, despite a majority of Americans supporting the right of workers to form unions. Arguments against forming labor unions often include concerns about a fall in worker productivity, but some economists believe that unions actually promote productivity because workers are more highly motivated when they have job security and benefits.

In the U.S., this increase in productivity is more often seen in the construction and education sectors, but not in manufacturing, according to The Conversation. Where you are likely to see a decrease, however, is in the profits of the businesses that unionize.

“So it’s a dilemma: Union jobs are good jobs, and we want people to have good jobs (particularly working-class type people), but at the same time they create the conditions of their own downfall,” the reader said.

Ahead you’ll find a sampling of responses from readers sharing their thoughts on the current wave of union drives and their own experiences with unions. 

Some entries may be edited for length and clarity.

How do you feel about recent union drives in and out of Boston?

“The more people unionize the better.”

“It is great, especially for the service workers who were treated very badly during the pandemic.” — Philip W., Boston

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“I support the right to unionize by any workers in private industry. Unions helped make a better life and lift the middle class for millions of Americans back in the 50s and 60s.” — Joseph Z., Boston

“Unions raise standards of employment across whole industries. The more people unionize the better chance there is of all workers, union and non-union, to be paid well and treated fairly at work.” — Anonymous

“Long overdue! Hopefully, these union drives expand to more states, including Southern states which have typically been resistant to unions, and also to white-collar office workers!” — Greg M., Newton

“More unions, the better. Workers have been subjected to unlivable wages and few protections for too long.” — Mike, Medford

“No need today.”

“It destroyed my company I had worked for 15 years. The unions got so greedy that the company was forced to close.” — Sue O., Framingham

“Get ready for more expensive products.” — Danyel, Foxborough

“No need today. Unions artificially drive up the cost of everything and public sector unions should be outright banned.” — Nick M., Stoughton

“Those who wish to unionize need to think through carefully if this is in their long-term interest. Unions do not always act to promote the best interests of their members, and, in fact, may be tools of management.” — D.L., Boston

“Public unions should be axed.”

“I’m a supporter of open shop firms and I’m not anti-union. At the same time, I don’t support government efforts to favor unions over open shop firms. So I do not support [Project Labor Agreements], nor do I support the union firm set-asides that Biden has created in the bipartisan infrastructure bill. [They’re] discriminatory against open shop firms and workers.” — Mike, Seacoast, N.H.

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“Public unions should be axed immediately. Private unions, private businesses — let them figure things out themselves.” — Kat, North Shore

“As FDR argued, public employees should not be permitted to unionize. Elected members of Congress and the States are management and ultimately the people are the employer. There is no effective representative of the people at the table during collective bargaining. And they should never be in a position to have a general strike. Private-sector workers should be permitted to unionize and individual employees should have the ‘right to work’ such that they are not required to join the union as a condition of employment.” — Al, Boston

Boston.com occasionally interacts with readers by conducting informal polls and surveys. These results should be read as an unscientific gauge of readers’ opinion.