PRESS RELEASE: An Empirical Case for Streamlining the NLRB Certification Process (ISERP Working Paper 2011.01)

New study shows relationship between filing petition to form a union, union certification elections, and instances of employer opposition and intimidation

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Michael Falco, 212-854-9489,

NEW YORK, JUNE 27, 2011 — The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has long advocated reducing the time period between the filing of a petition to form a union and union certification elections. A new study in the ISERP Working Paper Series shows that despite this objective there have been virtually no elections in the first 20 days after a petition is filed, while in the past two years there has been a slight increase in the number of elections held within 21 to 30 days of the petition. The study demonstrates the relationship between the petition date, election date and when the most serious employer opposition and intimidation occurs and concludes that the NLRB should streamline the certification process to reduce the number of days between petition and election.

The study was conducted by Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of Cornell University’s Office of Labor Education Research, and Dorian Warren, assistant professor at Columbia University’s Department of Political Science and the School of International and Public Affairs.

The researchers found that 47 percent of serious unfair labor practice allegations are reported before a petition is ever filed. Interrogation and surveillance are especially concentrated in the weeks before the petition is filed, and continues unabated all the way up to the election date. According to the study, this “steady, pervasive, and intense employer opposition undermines workers’ attempts to exercise their rights to choose union representation free of coercion and intimidation.”

“The data shows that employer campaigns against union certification elections begin much earlier than expected and continues all the way up to the election,” said Warren. “That is why our findings make a strong empirical argument for streamlining the NLRB certification process to reduce the period between the petition and the election as much as possible.”

Looking at the summary data on employer behavior, for example:

  • In 89 percent of all campaigns surveyed employers require workers to attend captive audience meetings with top management during work time.
  • The majority of employees attend at least five of these during the course of a campaign.
  • In 66 percent of campaigns workers are required to meet alone with their supervisors at least weekly, where most threats and interrogations occur.
  • Workers are threatened with plant closings in 57 percent of campaigns and with loss of wages and benefits in 47 percent.
  • In 64 percent of campaigns workers are interrogated about how they and other workers are going to vote, mostly by supervisors (53 percent), while employers use surveillance in 14 percent of elections.

Bronfenbrenner explains “This opposition to unions is constant and cumulative. Legal tactics, such as supervisor one-on-ones and captive audience meetings are interwoven with serious ULP violations. Streamlining the process matters because for workers each week that goes by is another week of threats, interrogation, harassment, discharges, and surveillance.”

This study is based on earlier data collected as part of a larger study on The Changing Climate for Union Organizing at the Turn of the Millennium, which was funded by the Public Welfare Foundation, Panta Rhea Foundation, America Rights at Work (ARAW), Discount Foundation, Poverty and Race Research Action Center, Berger Marks Foundation, the AFL-CIO,CTW and 23 affiliates. This portion of the research was funded by the AFL-CIO, SEIU, and ARAW.


About Columbia University —

A leading academic and research university, Columbia University continually seeks to advance the frontiers of knowledge and to foster a campus community deeply engaged in understanding and addressing the complex global issues of our time. Columbia’s extensive public service initiatives, cultural collaborations and community partnerships help define the University’s underlying values and mission to educate students to be both leading scholars and informed, engaged citizens. Founded in 1754 as King’s College, Columbia University in the City of New York is the fifth oldest institution of higher learning in the United States.

About Cornell University —

Cornell is a private, Ivy League university and the land-grant university for New York State. Cornell's mission is to discover, preserve, and disseminate knowledge; produce creative work; and promote a culture of broad inquiry throughout and beyond the Cornell community. Cornell also aims, through public service, to enhance the lives and livelihoods of our students, the people of New York, and others around the world.

Our faculty, students, alumni, and staff strive toward these objectives in a context of freedom with responsibility.

About the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy —

The Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP) is the research arm of the social sciences at Columbia University in the City of New York. We work to produce pioneering social science research and to shape public policy by integrating knowledge and methods across the social scientific disciplines.

About the Office of Labor Education Research

The Office of Labor Education Research, based in the Cornell School of Industrial Relations, was organized in 1993 under Director Kate Bronfenbrenner to support two key missions: a) conduct research on labor policy as it relates to the changing global economic, political, and social climate and b) support Cornell’s undergraduate research initiative by maintaining a team of 8-10 undergraduate research assistants in every project and teaching them quantitative and qualitative research methods.

Posted Jun 27, 2011

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