Saturday, May 23, 2009

Bronfenbrenner's New Analysis of Employer Behavior During Union Elections

NLRB Kate Bronfenbrenner has recently released "No Holds Barred:  The Intensification of Employer Opposition to Organizing" (published by American Rights at Work Education Fund and the Economic Policy Institute), which takes an updated look at employer attempts to resist organizing.  Studying NLRB documents over a four-year period from 1999 to 2004, Bronfenbrenner finds an increase in employer opposition to union organizing over her previous studies.  According to the EPI press release (you can also check out a fact sheet on her findings):

Bronfenbrenner’s study documents the increased use by employers of more punitive tactics such as plant closing threats and actual plant closings, discharges, harassment, disciplinary actions, surveillance, and alteration of benefits and working conditions. At the same time, employers are less likely to offer “carrots,” such as unscheduled raises, positive personnel changes, bribes, special favors, social events, promises of improvement, and employee involvement programs.

Private sector campaigns differ markedly from public sector ones, where 37 percent of workers belong to unions. Survey data from the public sector describe an atmosphere in which workers may organize relatively free from the kind of coercion, intimidation, and retaliation that so taints the election process in the private sector. Most of the states in the public sector sample have laws allowing workers to choose a union through the majority sign-up process.

* * *
According to Bronfenbrenner, in NLRB election campaigns, it is standard practice for workers to be subjected by corporations to threats, interrogation, harassment, surveillance, and retaliation for union activity. From the 1999-2003 data:

-63% interrogate workers in one-on-one meetings with their supervisors about support for the union
-54% threaten workers in such meetings
-57% threaten to close the worksite
-47% threaten to cut wages and benefits
-34% fire workers

Even when workers succeed at forming a union, 52 percent are still without a contract a year after they win the election, and 37 percent remain without a contract two years after the election.

No matter how you feel about EFCA, this report does a good job of showing why unions feel like they need card-check certification.  It's always worth remembering some other debates about terminations during organizing campaigns.

Hat Tip:  Dennis Walsh


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