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Study Shows Why NLRB Election Rule Changes Needed

Here are some key reasons the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) should level the playing field when workers are deciding whether to form a union. Employers’ anti-union campaigns begin much earlier than expected and continue all the way up to election. In fact, a new study found that almost half (47 percent) of serious unfair labor practices allegations are reported before a petition is even filed.

Interrogation and surveillance are especially concentrated in the weeks before the petition is filed, and continue unabated all the way up to the election date, according to the study. Dorian Warren, assistant professor in Columbia University’s department of political science, and co-author of the study, said:

Our findings make a strong empirical argument for streamlining the NLRB certification process to reduce the period between the petition and the election as much as possible.

 The study found, for example:

  • In 89 percent of all campaigns surveyed, employers require workers to attend captive audience meetings with top management during work time.
  • The majority of employees attend at least five of these during the course of a campaign.
  • In 66 percent of campaigns workers are required to meet alone with their supervisors at least weekly, where most threats and interrogations occur.
  • Workers are threatened with plant closings in 57 percent of campaigns and with loss of wages and benefits in 47 percent.
  • In 64 percent of campaigns workers are interrogated about how they and other workers are going to vote, mostly by supervisors (53 percent), while employers use surveillance in 14 percent of elections.

Co-author Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of Cornell University’s Office of Labor Education Research, said:

This opposition to unions is constant and cumulative. Legal tactics, such as supervisor one-on-ones and captive audience meetings are interwoven with serious ULP violations. Streamlining the process matters because for workers each week that goes by is another week of threats, interrogation, harassment, discharges, and surveillance.

The study was published as part of the Working Paper Series of Columbia’s Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP). Read the study here.

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