Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Small Victory in a Long War

Fighting for labor rights in America seems futile at times.  But sometimes small victories can lessen the struggle of the weary warriors and even open up an opportunity to grow union representation.  Yesterday, the NLRB voted to change the election rules for certifying unions (WARNING: Difficult Reading).  Effectively shortening the time it takes for workers to approve a union in their shop, these new rules could greatly boost union membership in America.  Kevin Drum reports
organizing a new workplace has gotten so hard in recent years thanks to corporate-friendly NLRB rule changes and increasingly aggressive union avoidance campaigns, that unions simply don't bother waging all that many recognition elections anymore. They know that most of them are hopeless. The result is that the net number of election wins has dropped nearly in half in just the last decade alone.
More below the fold.

The new rules propose to
remove unnecessary barriers to the fair and expeditious resolution of questions concerning representation. In addition to making the Board processes more efficient, the proposed amendments are intended to simplify the procedures, to increase transparency and uniformity across regions, and to provide parties with clearer guidance concerning the representation case procedure.

The proposed amendments would provide for more timely and complete disclosure of information needed by both the Board and the parties to promptly resolve matters in dispute. The proposed amendments are also intended to eliminate unnecessary litigation concerning issues that may be, and often are, rendered moot by election results. In addition, the proposed amendments would consolidate Board review of regional directors' determinations in representation cases in a single, post-election proceeding and would make review discretionary after an election as it currently is before an election. The Board anticipates that the proposed amendments would leave a higher percentage of final decisions about disputes arising out of representation proceedings with the Board's regional directors who are members of the career civil service. Finally, the proposed amendments are intended to modernize the Board's representation procedures, in particular, through use of electronic communications technology to speed communication among the parties, and between the parties and the Board, and to facilitate communication with voters.
What the union busters don't like is efficiency.  They thrive on the current inefficient process.  They use that wasted time to force their anti-union views down the throats of their employees.  They need time to intimidate and coerce.  If the process is shortened and made more efficient then it's going to be much easier for union leaders to organize.

The other good news is that a majority of workers polled actually want to join a union, they just haven't had the opportunity because of a process so heavily skewed in favor of management over labor.  If you look at the data, there has been a 15% increase in successful union organizing votes from 1997 to 2009.  In 2009, 60% of the elections succeeded.

The difficulty, of course, is that the total number of shop votes decreased from 3,261 in 1997 to only 1,304 in 2009.  But with these new rules, the number of shop votes should increase.  This means more people will be represented by unions and maybe, just maybe, the working class can be saved.

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