Are Unions the Cure for Restaurant Labor Shortages?

What’s All This Talk About Unions?

Unions are a hot topic right now. Workers from large chains across the US like Starbucks and Ben&Jerry’s are rallying together to form unions, and local restaurant employees are following suit. The increased unionization in the restaurant industry is a direct result of workers feeling undervalued and unappreciated for a long time. The pandemic worsened the already fragile employee-employer relationship when hospitality workers were forced to put themselves at risk to keep their source of income.


Why Don't Companies Like Unions?

Typically, large companies are known to be “anti-union”, as unions are seen as a threat to their profit margins. Walmart and Amazon are just two examples of companies that have been accused of anti-union practices. Some allegations include hiring union-busting consultants to discourage employees from unionizing, tracking union organizers, and retaliating against workers who advocate for better working conditions.

Crowd protesting with signs.


It’s Not All Bad News...

For local restaurants struggling with the labor shortage, unionization can be a valuable tool for attracting and retaining talented staff in a competitive industry. Unions can provide a stable and supportive work environment for employees, improving job satisfaction and retention rates. They establish clear expectations and guidelines for performance and conduct, leading to a more productive and positive work environment. Plus, they can provide guidance and support on legal matters, reducing the risk of disputes and violations.

States with higher union enrolment rank higher for key metrics such as health and wellness, and civic engagement. While these metrics relate to better quality of life, a happier, more engaged, and healthier workforce is better for everyone. Restaurant employee satisfaction surveys during the Great Resignation revealed that staff are crying out for higher wages, more flexibility in hours, better sanitation practices, and more benefits. If unions can help improve employee satisfaction, they can create the ideal conditions for a more loyal, committed workforce.


Unite With Employees For Long-Term Success

During the current great labour shortage, employers are desperate for workers and are already offering higher pay and better benefits to attract talent. This a great starting point, but to hold onto employees long-term, they must feel valued. Employee retention requires investing in their futures by offering them up-skilling opportunities, and laying out clear paths towards managerial or leadership positions. This lets employees know it’s more than an just hourly gig, and can be a real career path.


Dig Deeper: Find out more on how to tackle the current worker shortage here.