Full legal recognition of labor unions in the U.S. was bestowed in 1935 when FDR signed the National Labor Relations Act.
That bargaining strength can be seen in industries and fields today, like teachers’ unions and service employees, whose membership tops three million.
With their reputation for excellent pay and happy employees, you might wonder: Is Costco unionized? I have your answer below.
Is Costco Unionized?
Costco is a union-friendly company that continues to work with and support the rights of over 17,000 unionized employees in several states, all of whom are represented by the Teamsters organization. Costco has been union-friendly since the 1990s when the union-staffed Price Club merged with the original Costco company.
To learn more about why only a portion of Costco employees are unionized, where Costco employees are unionized, what benefits Costco employees receive as union members, and who the Teamsters are, keep reading!
Why Are Only Some Costco Employees Unionized?
What we know as Costco today started out as two different companies.
First was Price Club, founded in 1976 by Sol and Robert Price, a father/son duo. These two introduced the “retail warehouse club” concept in the U.S.
Then there was the brainchild of Jim Sinegal and Jeffrey Brotman, the founders of the Costco brand name. Sinegal had actually worked for Price at a prior retailer.
In 1993, 10 years after Sinegal and Brotman founded Costco, they and the Prices agreed to a merger.
According to Wikipedia, this was after Price had turned down an offer from Walmart! But he thought the Costco company was the “more natural” merger.
As it happened, Price Club employees were unionized. When the companies merged to become PriceCostco, those original Price Club stores kept their unionized workforce.
What Do Unionized Costco Employees Get?
Unionized Costco employees are part of the Teamster organization, which ensures fair treatment via negotiated labor contracts.
For example, it ensured that union members received the highest wages of any other employees in retail, “top-notch benefits,” and a great deal of job security.
That job security might not sound like much, but in a world of at-will employment, the Teamsters ensure their employees cannot be fired willy-nilly.
(“At-will” employment means that employees can quit at any time, without giving notice, but employers can also fire them at any time, without giving any notice.)
According to the very informative Redditor MysticLeviathan, “In order to fire you the store has to go through a whole process…”
That Redditor continued, mentioning that the contract stipulates that breaks and lunches – which many retail workers may receive late or miss altogether – will occur and on time.
Finally, in MysticLeviathan’s opinion, the most significant benefit unionized Costco employees receive is their pension plan.
For every hour an employee works, Costco pays something in the order of $1.25 into their pension plan.
Unlike 401(k)s, which rely on an ever-fluctuating market, pension plans are legally guaranteed and must be paid by employers.
Members of the Teamsters also benefit from union representatives who handle the legal aspects and member-facing services.
This includes representatives explaining potential contracts to union members so they are aware of how the contract benefits them.
It also involves asking union members what they want to see written in – their needs and how Costco can accommodate them.
The union members also get the final say in whether or not contracts go through, as the documents get put to a vote.
The last one passed in two parts, one for the California chapter (86 percent yes) and one for the East region (94 percent yes).
Unionized employees have clearly benefited non-union employees as well. Costco couldn’t very well be seen to maintain huge pay/benefit disparities among employees.
As a result, even non-union Costco workers are well-paid and receive excellent benefits.
Costco’s minimum wage — $16 per hour – is well over the federal minimum of $7.25, while their average hourly wage overall currently stands at $24 per hour.
Is Costco Unionized In California?
California is one of the states where some Costco employees are currently unionized.
Out of 133 California warehouses, 27 are unionized.
For the complete list of unionized California Costco locations, click here.
Is Costco Unionized In Washington State?
There are currently no Costco warehouses in Washington State that are unionized.
Is Costco Unionized In Canada?
Canadian Costco locations were not among the original Price Club stores, so no Canadian Costco warehouses are unionized.
In What Other States Is Costco Unionized?
The unionized membership of Costco employees in California is large enough for that state to merit its own union “region,” while membership in the east region spans a few additional states.
These include New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia.
Note that not all Costco warehouses in these states are unionized; Teamsters staff 16 warehouses in the aforementioned states.
Who Are The Teamsters?
The Teamsters are known primarily for their representation of warehouse employees and big truck drivers, though their membership comes from vastly diverse backgrounds.
The Teamsters are 1.4 million members strong, with 358 affiliate chapters throughout the U.S.
Founded in 1903, the Teamsters derive their organization name from the original conveyors of goods in this country, men who drove horse-drawn wagons, called teamsters.
According to MysticLeviathan, who is a member of the East coast Costco Teamster’s union, it costs $200 to join the union, plus monthly fees at a rate of two-and-a-half times your wage.
So if you make $16 per hour, you pay $40 per month to maintain your Teamster membership.
While not every Costco employee in the U.S. is unionized, about 17,000 are, and they are represented by the highly effective Teamsters organization.
Though non-unionized Costco employees don’t reap all the benefits of their unionized peers, the positive effect on their employment conditions are easy to deduce.