This week the Economic Policy Institute released a report analyzing the role of employers in union elections under the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) supervision. Their findings were startling; employers violated federal law in 41.5% of union elections.
Here’s what you need to know —
What this report finds: The data show that U.S. employers are willing to use a wide range of legal and illegal tactics to frustrate the rights of workers to form unions and collectively bargain. Employers are charged with violating federal law in 41.5% of all union election campaigns. And one out of five union election campaigns involves a charge that a worker was illegally fired for union activity. Employers are charged with making threats, engaging in surveillance activities, or harassing workers in nearly a third of all union election campaigns. Beyond this, there are many things employers can do legally to thwart union organizing; employers spend roughly $340 million annually on “union avoidance” consultants to help them stave off union elections. This combination of illegal conduct and legal coercion has ensured that union elections are characterized by employer intimidation and in no way reflect the democratic process guaranteed by the National Labor Relations Act.
Why it matters: Unions are good for workers. Far more U.S. workers want unions than have the benefit of representation today. When workers are able to win union representation and collectively bargain, their wages, benefits, and working conditions improve. On average, a worker covered by a union contract earns 13.2% more than a peer with similar education, occupation, and experience in a nonunionized workplace in the same sector. Union workers are more likely to have employer-sponsored health insurance, and their employers contribute more toward those plans. They are also more likely to have paid vacation and sick leave. Union workers are more likely to have retirement plans, with their employers contributing more toward those plans than comparable nonunion employers do. Unions also create safer workplaces. And union workers are covered by due process protections, so that, unlike nonunion workers in the U.S., union workers cannot be fired “at will,” with no warning and for almost any reason.1
What can be done about it: Policymakers must take action on legislative reform to restore and strengthen workers’ rights to organize and collectively bargain. The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, introduced by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), includes many critical reforms. The legislation will help ensure that workers have a meaningful right to organize and bargain collectively by streamlining the process when workers form a union, bolstering workers’ chances of success at negotiating a first agreement, and holding employers accountable when they violate workers’ rights. Indeed, the PRO Act addresses many of the most significant tactics of aggressive employer opposition. This type of legislative reform is needed to restore workers’ rights to join together and bargain for a better life.