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New Study Confirms Intense Employer Opposition to Workers' Unions

Findings Highlight Need for Employee Free Choice Act
Overall, 16.1 million, or 12.4% of U.S. workers are represented by unions, though polling indicates tens of millions more want a union to represent them. In fact, studies have shown that if workers’ preferences were realized, as much as 58% of the workforce would have union representation. 

In the private sector just 8% of workers belong to unions. It’s not that private sector workers are less likely to want to be in unions, it’s that their employers are intensifying their opposition to them joining unions.

Employers Continue to Punish Workers for Supporting a Union

Compared to the 1990s, employers are now more than twice as likely to use 10 or more tactics in their anti-union campaigns, with a greater focus on more coercive and punitive tactics designed to intensely monitor and punish union activity.

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

Employers have increased their use of these more punitive tactics while being less likely to offer “incentives,” such as unscheduled raises, positive personnel changes, bribes, special favors, social events, promises of improvement, and employee involvement programs.

Many Employers Resist Collective Bargaining Long After Their Workers Form Unions

Even if employees make it through a hostile employer campaign it can take years before they ever obtain a collective bargaining agreement. And some never do. The reasons include an absence of penalties or fines for employers who bargain in bad faith and the fact that employers can legally replace strikers permanently – effectively firing them if they strike for a first contract.

  • One year after a successful election, 52% of workers’ unions had no collective bargaining agreement.
  • Two years after an election, 37% of workers’ unions still had no contract.

Passage of the Employee Free Choice Act Would Restore Workers’ Rights

These statistics highlight how broken our current labor law system is for workers, and why reform is critically needed.  The bipartisan Employee Free Choice Act would enable working people to bargain for better benefits, wages, and working conditions by restoring workers’ freedom to choose for themselves whether to join a union. It would:

  • Give workers a free choice and a fair path to choose to form a union, free from intimidation
  • Ensure real penalties exist for employers who break the law
  • Prevent companies from engaging in endless delays and stall tactics to deny workers a collective bargaining agreement

Based on new research from Dr. Kate Bronfenbrenner, No Holds Barred: The Intensification of Employer Opposition to Organizing. For more, read the fact sheet and full report.

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About the Employee Free Choice Act

A growing, bipartisan coalition of policymakers supports the Employee Free Choice Act, federal legislation that would ensure workers have a free choice and a fair chance to form a union.

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