Evolving Workforce Demands New Strategies from Retailers

How today’s labor activity is shaping retail employment

The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) and IRI Consultants today released a report, Labor Activity in Retail, which provides data around the rate and growth of labor activity in 2021 and outlines key strategies to help leading retailers address workforce challenges.

“Leading retailers have successfully navigated a difficult few years with challenges ranging from COVID-19 to supply chain complications but underlying all of these issues is a constant shortage of talent,” said RILA Vice President of Workforce Evan Armstrong. “This lack of available workers, and a union-friendly Administration, has given new life to labor movements to flex their muscles. The movement is further energized by a younger, more socially conscious, and social media savvy workforce that presents a new set of issues of belonging, transparency, and a seat at the table. In this report, IRI provides a valuable resource to retailers who must rethink and implement new strategies that meet the changing needs of their workers in the face of an evolving labor relations landscape.”

“The second annual RILA/IRI Labor Activity in Retail report provides members with insights and thought leadership to assist in navigating today’s evolving labor landscape. Designed to inform and target retail and supply chain activity in an efficient and consumable manner, this year’s report is a timely prompt to assess and modernize your approach to positive employee relations,” said Scott Purvis, Chief Operating Officer, IRI Consultants.

Key takeaways:
  • There were 133 representation petitions filed in the retail industry in 2021, compared to 75 petitions in 2020.
  • A decade-high 85 representation elections were held in the retail industry in 2021, more than double the 40 elections held in 2020. Unions were elected as a result of 67% of the elections held in 2021, compared with 73% in 2020.
  • The majority of organizing activity in the retail industry occurred in just six states – Illinois, California, Oregon, New York, Washington, and Massachusetts. They accounted for 72% of all petitions filed and 74% of all elections held.
  • The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) remained the most active union in the retail industry in 2021. They accounted for more than half of all petitions filed in 2021. The 74 petitions filed by UFCW were more than four times as many petitions as the next most active union, the Teamsters.
Access the full report here.

RILA is the US trade association for leading retailers. We convene decision-makers, advocate for the industry, and promote operational excellence and innovation. Our aim is to elevate a dynamic industry by transforming the environment in which retailers operate.

RILA members include more than 200 retailers, product manufacturers, and service suppliers, which together account for more than $1.5 trillion in annual sales, millions of American jobs, and more than 100,000 stores, manufacturing facilities, and distribution centers domestically and abroad.
  • Workforce
  • Investing in People
  • Human Resources
  • Public Policy
  • Retail Works for All of Us

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