Analysis of Labor Board Stats: Workers Who Want a Union Rarely Get One
Time and again, the evidence shows that when workers try to form unions, they often face harassment and intimidation from their employers. In fact, an analysis of labor board elections by University of California-Davis professor David Brody shows the odds of making it all the way through the process, from filing a petition to getting a first contract, years later, are only 573 out of 2,388 or less than one in four.
Pulling facts from the latest Annual Report of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which covers the fiscal year (FY) running from October 2007 to September 2008, Brody notes:
- During FY 2008, the NLRB closed 2,388 representation cases (NLRB annual report, Table 10).
- Of these, 782 were withdrawn and another 46 were dismissed, presumably before they ever got to an election (NLRB annual report, Table 10).
- Of the 1,610 representation case elections held, unions won 1,024 or 63.6 percent (Table 13).
- If recent trends continue, of these 1,024 newly formed unions, only 573 or 56 percent will succeed in bargaining a first contract.
- So the odds of making it all the way through the process, from filing a petition to getting a first contract, years later, are only 573 out of 2,388 or less than one in four.
- The workers involved in this process had a 97 percent chance of being subjected to an anti-union campaign by their employer—usually orchestrated by a professional union buster—and usually featuring captive audience meetings and one-on-one closed door meetings with supervisors, frequent threats to close or move the workplace if workers vote to form a union, and a one-in-five chance that active union supporters would be fired illegally.
- Bottom line: Only 68,000 workers managed to form unions via the corporate-dominated NLRB representation process in FY 2008—and only a little more than half of these will ever obtain the protection of a collective bargaining agreement.
But corporate mouthpieces are desperate to attack any change in the nation’s labor laws that would level the playing field for workers seeking to form unions. So they distort reality to make it appear that America’s workers can easily form unions.
The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), for instance, says, “Workers who wish to become union members are able to do so.” But check the facts and you’ll find a much different reality. In fact, most of the workers who have successfully joined unions during the period NAM refers to, between 2007 and 2008, did so in the public sector, often through majority sign-up—the kind of worker-directed, voluntary formation that all workers would have access to under the Employee Free Choice Act.
Only a small minority used the corporate-dominated NLRB election system, which requires not only the same gathering of signatures used in majority sign-up, but a second, company-dominated election process. And of the minority of workers who were able to successfully use the NLRB election system, thousands still don’t have contracts.