Entry for March 14, 2007

Illustration from the animation Friends with Low Wages by American Right to Work described February 11, 2006 by cartoonist David Baldinger (email, website, blog).

Richard Freeman and Joel Rogers directed the Worker Representation and Participation Survey in 1994-5 with “technical assistance from members of the business and labor communities.” The two published their findings in a 1999 book, What Workers Want, with a updated edition in 2006.

In a February 22, 2007 briefing paper for the Economic Policy Institute, “Do workers want unions? Now more than ever” Freeman wrote,

The proportion of workers who want unions has risen substantially over the last 10 years, and a majority of nonunion workers in 2005 would vote for union representation if they could. This is up from the roughly 30% who would vote for representation in the mid-1980s, and the 32% to 39% in the mid-1990s, depending on the survey. Given that nearly all union workers (90%) desire union representation, the mid-1990s analysis suggested that if all the workers who wanted union representation could achieve it, then 44% of the workforce would have union representation. The rise in the desire for union representation since then suggests that the share of the nonunion workforce wanting union representation in 2005 was 53%. These results, in turn, suggest that if workers were provided the union representation they desired in 2005, then the overall unionization rate would have been about 58%.

Compare this with the 12% in unions and you begin to see not just the effects I have already written about, but those used by management to fight unionization. Industrial Relations Consultants, Inc. , brags that “We’ve been keeping companies union free for over 30 years.” The Jackson Lewis law firm provides “preventive strategies” in “4 times zones and 27 major locations coast to coast.” Strike management firms, such as Management Support Services “has discreetly and confidentially helped more than 900 companies ranging from major Fortune 500 corporations to leading mid-size and small privately-held firms face the specter of strike.” And while industrial psychologist Charles L. Hughes’s firm says that its approach “is not anti-union, nor is it pro-management,” his site describes his Making Unions Unnecessary: Twenty-First Century Edition aas the best selling book “first to set forth the philosophy: ‘Any management that gets a union deserves it.’” In “The Union Avoidance Industry in the United States,” (December 2006), John Logan writes that “Over three-quarters of employers hire consultants when confronted by organizing campaigns.

And then there are pr-firm run front groups, such as the Center for Union Facts and anti-union organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Right to Work Committee, and the Public Service Resource Foundation and Council and Grover Norquist’s Alliance for Worker Freedom .


For articles on union busting, see CorpWatch and Multinational Monitor

For links to labor data and how to use them, see the Data Center. See also the site’s research tools.

The AFL-CIO has summed up much of the data I have been writing about at the page “Employers’ Interference by the Numbers.”

  1. Employers that illegally fire at least one worker for union activity during
    organizing campaigns: 25%
  2. Chance that an active union supporter will be illegally fired for union
    activity during a NRLB election: 1 in 5; during organizing campaigns including card checks: 1 in 7 [my ocrrection; the original was misstated]
  3. Employers that hire consultants or union-busters to help them fight union
    organizing drives: 75%
  4. Employers that force employees to attend one-on-one meetings against the
    union with their own supervisors: 78%
  5. Employers that force employees to attend mandatory closed-door meetings
    against the union: 92%
  6. Employers that threaten to call U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
    during organizing drives that include undocumented employees: 52%
  7. Companies that threaten to close the plant if the union wins the election: 51%
  8. Companies that actually close their plants after a successful union election: 1%
  9. Workers in 2005 who received back pay because of illegal employer
    discrimination for activities protected under the National Labor
    Relations Act: 31,358
  10. Percentage of cases in which employers never agree to a contract after
    workers form a union under the NLRB process: 34%
  11. Portion of public that says strong laws protecting workers’ freedom to
    form unions—without employer interference—are important: 77%
  12. Portion of public that disapproves of employer anti-union campaigns
    when workers try to form unions: 67%
  13. Nonunion workers who say they want to have a union in their workplace: 60 million
  14. Number and percentage of U.S. workers that belong to unions: 15.4 million
    or 12%

Sources : 1 and 3-8: Kate Bronfenbrenner, “Uneasy Terrain: The Impact of Capital Mobility on Workers, Wages and Union Organizing,” September 6, 2000. A study of Chicago-area NLRB
representation elections by University of Illinois-Chicago professors Chirag Mehta and Nik Theodore reported similar findings. Mehta and Theodore found that workers were fired illegally during 30 percent of organizing campaigns, employers force workers to attend one-on-one, anti-union meetings with supervisors during 91 percent of NLRB representation election campaigns, and employers hire consultants or union-busters to help them fight 82 percent of union organizing drives. See Mehta and Theod
ore, “Undermining the Right to Organize: Employer Behavior During Union Representation Campaigns,” report for American Rights at Work, December 2005.
2. John Schmitt and Ben Zipperer, “Dropping the Ax: Illegal Firings During Union Election Campaigns,” Center for Economic and Policy Research, January 2007.
9. National Labor Relations Board annual report, fiscal year 2005, Table 4.
10. Kate Bronfenbrenner, “Uneasy Terrain: The Impact of Capital Mobility on Workers, Wages and Union Organizing, Part II: First Contract Supplement,” 2001. According to more recent data reported by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, an even higher proportion of unions newly certified pursuant to the NLRB representation process are denied first contracts by employers: 45 percent. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service annual report, 2004.
11-12: Peter D. Hart Research Associates, survey for the AFL-CIO, December 2006.
13. AFL-CIO calculation based on Peter D. Hart Research Associates survey, December 2006.
14. U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.




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