Management and labor unions have been at odds with very few exceptions for as long as the two have been around. This has certainly been the case in the retailing business.

The question right now, however, is whether nonunion frontline workers have been made to feel more disposable during the novel coronavirus pandemic and if they will turn to collective bargaining agreements in an effort to seek safety in numbers.

Conflicts between workers and management have been placed in a more contrasting light since the pandemic hit. Issues of working conditions, racial equity, income disparity and job security have grown even more prevalent at a time when “essential” retailers have produced record financial results while those designated “non-essential” have had to revert to furloughs, layoffs and reduced man hours in an effort to balance demand with operating expenses.

RetailWire Discussion: What is your forecast for labor relations between retailers and their frontline workforces in 2021 and beyond? What impact, if any, do you think the passage of a higher federal minimum wage would have on employer/employee relations?
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“The pandemic has exposed a number of festering labor issues and there have been some changes to the way frontline workers are being treated, however, I don’t believe that the fundamental dynamics in the relationships between frontline workers and management will dramatically change.

And while there’s no doubt that the passage of higher federal minimum wage will I impact retailers – the largest of which can more easily manage the extra labor costs – unfortunately, smaller businesses will struggle with this.”


Mark Ryski

Author, CEO & Founder HeadCount Corporation