Is This a New Era for Employee Activism?

by August 21, 2019
Employees are not only raising their voices for fair pay but also on their company’s social and environmental policies.
(Photo by Chris Slupski via Unsplash)

Teacher strikes across the country. Employee walkouts at Boston-based furniture retailer Wayfair over selling furniture to detention centers and LA-based Riot Games over forced arbitration. Kaiser Permanente mental health workers in several states threatening to strike. Employees across the country and across many different industries are taking a stand for fair labor practices, better pay, and larger issues of social justice.

According to Employee Activism in the Age of Purpose: Employees (UP)Rising, released by Weber Shandwick in partnership with United Minds and KRC Research, 38 percent of employees have raised their voices to support or criticize their employer over a controversial issue. The report finds that these employee activists are most likely to be Millennials, followed by Gen Xers and Boomers.

How to localize employee activism

What are the hotspots for employee activism in your community? Contact local labor unions and ask about their current pain points. Are they currently negotiating for better work environments or higher pay? Do they anticipate a worker strike or walkout? Beyond wages and working conditions, what are their other concerns?

Teacher strikes have been featured in the news, but don’t forget about unions in other industries such as fast food workers, postal workers, and technical theater professionals. Of course, many employees aren’t unionized, as this New York Times article observes about the tech world, so unions are just a starting point.

How are local employers responding? Are forward-thinking employers providing paid time off for political activism or voting to boost goodwill? Do these kinds of benefits boost morale and employee retention?

The Society for Human Resource Management compiled a list of recent coverage on employee activism, and may be able to connect you to HR professionals in your area who can weigh in how employers are handling this shift in workplace culture.