Tens of millions of Americans have been furloughed or laid off. For many of those who remained, or returned to the workforce in frontline roles, going to work became an exercise in risk-taking. Some workers began protesting a lack of workplace covid-19 safety precautions, including personal protective equipment (PPE). Walkouts, “sickouts” and strikes increased. Interest in joining unions, and public support for them, went up, as workers feared being fired while seeking enhanced safety measures, paid sick time and other pandemic-specific benefits.
To understand the nature and extent of the differing work experiences of unionised and non-unionised workers during the pandemic, Economist Impact surveyed 1,001 union members and and 153 union representatives and executives in organisations with unionised workers around the US across various functional roles and major sectors. The survey assessed worker concerns, remote work experiences, as well as organisations’ digital maturity, technology investments, skills and capabilities, and outlooks on the future. What emerges from survey results is a clear sense that workers’ union member status has played a substantial role in shaping their work experience in the covid-19 era. They tend to feel more valued by their organisations and more optimistic about the future compared with non-union workers. But like so many non-union workers during the pandemic, they are worried about financial challenges.
- Union members feel more valued and respected by their organisation compared with non-union workers— and they’re more likely to feel optimistic about the future.
- It appears that organisations with unionised members were more likely to increase pay and benefits for workers since the onset of the pandemic, compared with organisations with no union.
- While union members were more likely to feel cared for, they were not immune to financial challenges during the pandemic.