Story at a glance
- The National Labor Relations Board announced this week that union representative petitions have gone up by 56 percent already since last year.
- The total number of petitions filed so far is 1,935.
- While petitions increase, the number of NLRB staff remains low.
Union representation petitions filed at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) have gone up more than 50 percent since last year, the agency announced this week.
By May, petitions already surpassed the total number of petitions filed last year. So far this year, 1,935 petitions have been submitted — 695 more than 2021, according to a statement from the agency.
Meanwhile, charges of unfair labor practices have jumped by 14.5 percent from 11,451 last year to 13,106 in the first three quarters of this fiscal year.
Employees, unions, or employees with an NLRB Field Office file representation petitions in order to conduct elections and determine if employees want to be represented by a union.
The new data comes during a year of historic firsts for unionization efforts in the U.S. workforce. In April, Amazon warehouse workers in Staten Island became the first employees of the e-commerce giant to vote in favor of unionizing. Starbucks employees in New York stirred a nation-wide unionization effort, and workers at Gawker Media were successful in their push to unionize last month.
Despite the recent spike in unionization efforts, the overall number of workers who belong to a union has been on a downward trend since the 1980s. In 1983, 20 percent of U.S. workers belonged to a union and in 2021 that number had dropped to 10.3 percent, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Fifty-eight percent of Americans believe that the decline in union membership is “somewhat or very bad” for the country, while 61 percent say that it has been bad for working people, according to a Pew Research Center survey.
The increase in petitions also comes at a time of funding and staffing shortages at the NLRB. The agency’s budget has not been adjusted for inflation for nine years, resulting in an overall decrease of 25 percent since 2010, according to a statement. The agency’s overall staff has also dropped by nearly 40 percent since 2002 and field staff has been cut by 50 percent.
As a result, the agency is calling for a budget of $319.4 million, or an increase of 16 percent, for next year.
“The NLRB is processing the most cases it has seen in years with the lowest staffing levels in the past six decades. Our dedicated staff, especially in our 48 field offices, are handling unsustainable caseloads. The Agency urgently needs more resources to process petitions and conduct elections, investigate unfair labor practice charges, and obtain full remedies for workers whose labor rights have been violated,” said NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo.
“We need Congress to help us restore the capacity that we have lost after years of underfunding.”
READ MORE STORIES FROM CHANGING AMERICA