Employers Stepping Up Efforts to Prevent Unions

Employer tactics against workers' efforts to form unions have increased and are more punitive than in the past, according to a new four-year study by Kate Bronfenbrenner, senior lecturer in the ILR School and director of Labor Education Research.

Companies have more than doubled their use of tactics in their campaigns against workers' organizing efforts, with a greater focus on more coercive tactics aimed at monitoring and punishing union activity, according to the report.

Produced by American Rights at Work and the Economic Policy Institute and funded by several foundations, the report provides an analysis of employer behavior in union representation elections supervised by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). It also compares employer-behavior data from 1999 to 2003 to studies conducted over the last 20 years.

"In 2009, the overwhelming majority of workers who want unions do not have them," the report stated. "The majority also believes that, due to employer opposition, they would be taking a great risk if they were to organize. For these workers, the right to organize and bargain collectively--free from coercion, intimidation and retaliation--is at best a promise indefinitely deferred."

In NLRB election campaigns, it is standard practice for workers to be subjected by corporations to retaliation for union activity, the report stated. According to the data collected for the study, 63 percent of companies interrogated workers; 54 percent threatened workers in such meetings; 57 percent threatened to close the worksite; 47 percent threatened to cut wages and benefits; and 34 percent fired workers.

For workers who successfully formed a union or won their election, 52 percent were without a contract a year later, and two years after the election, 37 percent were still without a contract.

Bronfenbrenner also found an increase in the use of plant-closing threats and actual plant closings, discharges, harassment, surveillance, and alteration of benefits and conditions. At the same time, employers were less likely to offer workers such "carrots" as granting unscheduled raises, making positive personnel changes, promising improvement or offering bribes and special favors, social events and employee-involvement programs.

Private-sector unionizing campaigns differ markedly from public-sector campaigns, where 37 percent of workers belong to unions, Bronfenbrenner found. Public-sector survey data describe an atmosphere in which workers organize relatively free from the intimidation common in the private sector.

According to the report, once coercive behavior occurred, unions filed unfair labor-practice charges about 40 percent of the time; most allegations were of threats, discharges, interrogation, surveillance, and wages and benefits altered for union activity.

Bronfenbrenner found that employers appealed many cases, and in the most egregious cases, employers ensured that a final decision was delayed by three to five years. In the sample, the heaviest penalty an employer had to pay was a few thousand dollars per employee in back pay.

Previous research and Bronfenbrenner's findings suggest that unions file unfair labor practices in fewer than half of elections. Filing charges where the election was likely to be won delayed the election for months or years, and workers said they feared retaliation for filing charges, especially where the election was likely to be lost.

Product Showcase

  • Magellan X Pte Ltd

    Hesitate No More with SOL-X Connected Worker Health & Safety Solution

    According to the National Safety Council, work-related medically consulted injuries total 4.26 million in 2021 in USA alone. SOL-X solution prevents “human factors” safety issues by anticipating incidents and improving compliance workflows. Leverages digital technologies (IIoT, AI and analytics) to predict patterns from occurring and make informed decisions. Control Of Work - gets rid of tedious paperwork and experience digital workflows. Crew Protect - maximises safety and situational awareness with health trackers and situational indicators. Award-winning Intrinsically Safe SmartWatch – innovative features that enable near real-time visibility and connected well-being. Works well with major connectivity protocols like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Long-Range Bluetooth! 3

  • The MGC Simple Plus

    The MGC Simple Plus

    The MGC Simple Plus is a simple-to-use, portable multi-gas detector that runs continuously for three years without needing to be recharged or routinely calibrated after its initial charge and calibration during manufacturing. The detector reliably tests a worksite’s atmosphere for hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, oxygen and combustible gases (LEL). Additionally, it is durable enough to withstand the harshest treatment and environments, which is why it has an IP 68 rating. The MGC Simple Plus is also compatible with a variety of accessories, such as Gas Clip Technologies’ new GCT External Pump. Visit gascliptech.com for more information. 3

  • Make selection & use of SRLs simpler with the new V-SHOCK line

    Make selection & use of SRLs simpler with the new V-SHOCK line

    The new MSA V-SHOCK EDGE Cable SRLs and Web PFLs for Leading Edge use are designed for simplicity and hassle-free safety. V-SHOCK EDGE solutions help make PPE selection on the jobsite quick and easy with color-coded housings, clear icons on labels, and clearance charts in the label pack. 3