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The Haves and Have-Nots
November 21, 2008

How American Labor Law Denies a Quarter of the Workforce Collective Bargaining Rights

The right to organize and bargain collectively under the protection of law is the bedrock upon which workers are able to form or join a labor union. American labor law has not kept pace with the changing nature and face of the modern workplace and increasingly excludes more and more workers from this legal protection. Increasing numbers of employees have a supervisory aspect or capacity of their work. More and more immigrants join the workforce, especially in the agricultural sector, and more people have been classified as independent contractors, whether by choice or by an employer’s decision. As these changes take place, American labor law denies these workers their legally-protected right to form unions and collectively bargain by either defining workers as not employees or by expressly excluding them.

This report provides an accurate, up-to-date analysis of the number and type of workers without collective bargaining rights, as well as recent trends in the workforce and legal rulings that have impacted that number. There are 140.5 million people in the civilian workforce. Our research found that of these employees, 33.5 million, or 23.8%, have no rights under the NLRA or any other labor law: no legally-protected right to join or form a union, no legally-protected right to bargain collectively for their wages and conditions of work, and therefore, effectively no freedom of association in the workplace.

» Download Executive Summary (PDF)
» Download Full Report (PDF)

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The Inadequate Costs of Labor Law Violations
November 21, 2008

Employers have little reason to abide by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), as the financial disincentives of violating the law are minimal. From firing, demoting, or retaliating against workers for their support of a union to ignoring their duty to negotiate a contract, many employers blatantly violate the NLRA. Other major federal employment laws impose fines or damages on employers who break the law. Yet the NLRA’s nominal deterrents do little to prevent employer lawlessness compared to the costs of violating minimum wage, discrimination, and health and safety protections. 

Comparison of Employer Costs for Violating Federal Employment Laws

If passed, the Employee Free Choice Act will address the insufficient law by increasing penalties on those who break the law and giving workers the just compensation they deserve.

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The Chilling Effect: Fire One Worker, Send a Powerful Message to the Rest
October 30, 2008

For every worker fired, 395 get the message: they could be next. It is well-established that employers illegally fire workers for their support of a union in the United States. But what people may not realize is that for every worker fired, 395 coworkers receive the message: get involved with the union and you’ll get a pink slip.

Looking at how many workers, on average, in a workplace observe someone being fired for supporting a union reveals the real impact. The firing goes far beyond a lost job, vanished income, and workplace injustice for the individual worker—it can chill support for a union by instilling fear among coworkers that they too could lose their livelihood and economic well-being.

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NLRB's 'Fired Workers' Only Tip of the Iceberg
October 30, 2008

Employer-Dominated Labor Law System Conceals Reality of Workers Fired for Union Activity

Every day men and women join unions in this country to improve their jobs and economic livelihood. Unfortunately, clever employers often interfere with their workers’ support for a union. As a result, anti-union employers fire pro-union workers in 25% of organizing campaigns.*

Adding insult to injury, fired workers discover incredible obstacles in attempts to reclaim their jobs due to a weak labor law system that favors employers. The workers who end up with an official ruling in their favor from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) represent only the tip of the iceberg of the thousands of workers fired each year for supporting a union. Rather than navigate a long and difficult process, too many fired workers end their pursuit of justice, however minimal, from the NLRB.

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Half a Million and Counting
September 17, 2008

In these tough economic times, workers need more opportunities to get ahead – that’s why unions matter and why workers across the country are seeking to form them today. Since 2003, more than half a million Americans formed unions through majority sign-up, an efficient, fair and democratic union organizing process where employers recognize unions if a majority of employees demonstrate their desire to form one.1

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