The Labor & Employment Blog is a forum for practitioners and Bloomberg BNA editors to share ideas, raise issues, and network with colleagues.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
by Robert Combs
The gradual, decades-old decline in the ranks of union
workers is typically discussed in terms of attrition. Lower membership figures
(down 26 percent over the past 40 years, according to the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics) and fewer representation
elections (less than half as many as there were just 20 years ago, according to National Labor Relations Board records) suggest
a leaching of outreach efforts or organizing strength.
But what about the more
overt and abrupt act of decertification? How often does a unit of already-unionized
workers actually decide to formally say goodbye to their union—and is it
happening more often now than in the past?
Actually, it is happening less often. The NLRB reported 228
decert elections in 2012—the lowest total since we started tracking NLRB
election data in the mid-1980s. Unions typically faced more than 400 decert
elections a decade ago. Even as recently as 2007, 331 decert attempts made it
to the election phase.
But that doesn’t
necessarily mean that unions are doing a better job of hanging on to their
members nowadays. Of those 228 elections last year, unions won only 87—by far
the lowest total on record—earning a 38.2 percent win rate that itself marks a
five-year low. In terms of living, breathing members, the 2012 figures were similarly
bleak for unions. Of the 14,051 workers in bargaining units threatened with
decertification, only about half—7,326—remained unionized after the votes were
counted, marking the lowest retention total on record.
Among individual unions, one organization accounted for more
than one-fifth of all decert elections in 2012. The Teamsters were besieged with
51 decerts, far below its yearly average but far above the total for any other
union. The union was shown the door in 38 of those elections, for a 25.5
percent win rate. The Teamsters were able to hang on to only 743 of the 2,256
workers eligible to vote in the elections.
These 2012 figures are from Bloomberg BNA’s NLRB Elections Statistics, Year-End 2012 Report, which is due to be released soon.
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