Occupy the House Education and Workforce Committee

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Written by Kris Warner   
Tuesday, 08 November 2011 09:45
"They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions."

That is one of the statements from the Declaration of the Occupation of New York City. Recent events have only proven it to be true.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is the government agency tasked with enforcing the provisions of the National Labor Relations Act, under which private-sector employees have the right to join together as a labor union. One of the major activities of the NLRB is to conduct union representation elections, in which workers vote on whether or not to form a union at their workplace. In June of this year, the NLRB proposed rules to reform procedures concerning these elections, so as to "reduce unnecessary litigation, streamline pre- and post-election procedures, and facilitate the use of electronic communications and document filing."

CEPR Co-Director Dean Baker testified at a public hearing about these proposed changes, along with about 60 other speakers. In his testimony, Dean highlighted the research of CEPR Senior Economist John Schmitt and Senior Research Associate Ben Zipperer, in which they found "that in the 2000s workers were illegally fired in over 1-in-4 (26 percent) of union election campaigns, up sharply from about 16 percent in the late 1990s." 

It is likely that fewer workers would be illegally fired for supporting efforts to organize their workplaces if these proposed rules were implemented and union elections happened more quickly than they do now. However, congressional Republicans, who have already kicked their attacks against the NLRB into high gear, have now also drafted legislation that would prevent these needed reforms from being made and would, in many cases, increase the amount of time from the filing of an election petition to the actual election.

It is times like these that I'm glad CEPR has a collection of accurate, independent research about the benefits of unions to workers. This year we've also begun to alert our blog readers to the latest research on labor market policy from other organizations. And, of course, we will continue to conduct research about unions and more general issues affecting workers, like our new paper about trends in unionization rates in 21 wealthy countries from 1960 to the present, by Domestic Intern Alexandra Mitukiewicz and Senior Economist John Schmitt. It will be released in the next few days - so keep an eye out.

Tags: elections | labor market | OccupyWallSt | unions