HR Management & Compliance

Unions Seeking to Organize in Nontraditional Industries, Including Financial Services

Union-organizing efforts aren’t limited to historical union strongholds like manufacturing, construction, and the public sector. Even though unions currently represent only about 1.3% of the financial services industry, they’re looking to organize financial services employees. Case in point: On December 20, 2023, Wells Fargo branch employees in Albuquerque, New Mexico, voted 5 to 3 in favor of joining the Communications Workers of America Union (CWA). This victory, along with the news of record union contracts in other industries, will likely serve as a launching pad for the CWA and other unions to organize financial industry employees.

Dealing with Union Organizing

You can combat the threat of union organizing by fostering good employee relations and providing competitive pay and benefits, among other aspects of a positive culture. You should also familiarize yourself with warning signs of potential organizing activity, a few of which include:

  • A sudden and unexplained combativeness between employees and supervisors;
  • The emergence of a new employee “leader”;
  • A change in the type of language used by employees, e.g., talk of “just cause” or “grievances”;
  • Groups of employees scurrying whenever a supervisor approaches; and
  • The presence of union propaganda or organizing cards.

You should also train supervisors on how to recognize the warning signs and understand the “do’s and don’ts” of dealing with union organizing. In general, you can’t interrogate employees on their feelings about unions, threaten employees who support a union, promise to provide anything to employees who don’t support the union, or monitor employees either physically or online regarding potential union activities.

Above all, if you believe an organizing campaign is underway or a request for recognition from a union is received, it’s imperative that you have a comprehensive understanding of, or obtain advice from an expert on, your rights to oppose unionization. The failure to act swiftly and within the parameters of the law could result in union certification.

Bottom Line

Employers in the financial services industry and other nontraditional industries for unionization aren’t immune to union-organizing efforts. The recent CWA victory at Wells Fargo serves as a reminder that union organizing can occur in almost any workplace.

Cameron Ritsema is an attorney with Bodman PLC in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and can be reached at

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