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Out of Control: Employer Misconduct During Union Organizing Far Too Common

National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) elections are meant to provide workers with the opportunity to choose whether or not they want to join a union. Yet research confirms that too many employers are taking advantage of U.S. labor laws intended to protect workers’ rights to form unions. Aggressive misconduct from management widely prevents workers from exercising their choice. These findings indicate a serious need for reform of the NLRB-supervised union election process which typically skews in the favor of employers.

Democracy Denied

While anti-union interests claim the NLRB election system protects the right to vote, the grim reality remains that our broken system denies an overwhelming number of employees the opportunity to ever have a choice. As soon as workers file a petition with the NLRB to hold an election, employers often try to prevent the vote from ever taking place. In four out of 10 cases, workers who ask for an NLRB-supervised election don’t ever get a chance to vote.


In the current company-dominated system, workers who ask for a union election don’t get a chance to vote in four out of 10 cases.

Lawlessness Rampant

In cases that actually reach an election, almost half are spoiled by employers engaging in illegal activity, according to workers’ reports. Specifically, in 46 percent of elections, employers interfere with the NLRB-supervised election process by firing pro-union employees, cutting back on workers’ hours, making groundless demotions, and using other intimidating tactics.


In 46% of NLRB-supervised union elections, workers report employer lawlessness both before and during the election.


Based on American Rights at Work’s review of the NLRB’s Case Activity Tracking System database and matching of representation cases to unfair labor practice cases, June 2008.

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American Rights at Work obtained data on all unfair labor practice cases and all election petitions that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) closed between 1999 and 2007 under a Freedom of Information Act request.

In order to determine how many unfair labor practice charges (ULPs) were associated with each election petition, we selected one year, 2003, and manually matched all representation petitions filed in 2003 with corresponding ULPs.  We did this for all ULPs that were filed at any point between three months before each petition through eighteen months after the filing.  The following criteria were used to determine whether there was a match: NLRB Region, various forms of the employer’s name, union, and location.  In addition, where a petition had been “blocked” by a ULP, those election petitions were automatically assigned to the ULP that caused the block to be placed on the petition.  On some occasions, an NLRB agent specifically identified the election petition that corresponded to the ULP, and these were categorized accordingly.

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American Rights at Work is a nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to promoting the freedom of workers to organize unions and bargain collectively with employers.


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