A new study by labor expert and Cornell University Professor Kate Bronfenbrenner has found that employer opposition to labor unions has intensified in recent years and has become more punitive.
The new report–titled “No Holds Barred: The Intensification of Employer Opposition to Organizing“–looks at five years of employer behavior in elections supervised by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
The study found that it is standard practice for workers to be subject to threats, interrogation, harassment, surveillance, and retaliation for union activity. In campaigning against unions, corporations frequently engage in a combination of the following tactics:
- 63% interrogate workers in one-on-one meetings with their supervisors about support for the union
- 54% threaten workers in such meetings
- 57% threaten to close the worksite
- 47% threaten to cut wages and benefits
- 34% fire workers
Moreover, even in instances when employees are able to form a union, corporations are able to continue to drag their heels. 52% of employees are still without a contract a year after they win a union election and 37% remain without a contract after two years.
Bronfenbrenner compared the results of this study to past studies and found that employers are using a combination of ten common anti-union tactics in 49% of unionization drives, up from 26% twelve years ago.
The report also looks at the difference between private-sector and public-sector unionization rates. In the public-sector, 37% of workers belong to unions compared to just 8% in the private-sector. Public-sector workers often have more freedom to form unions as coercive anti-union tactics are considerably less common. In many cases, they can form unions through a majority sign-up process rather than through elections.
The report blames employers’ anti-union tactics for driving down the unionization rate to 12.4% in the United States.
Study Likely to Fuel Debate over Employee Free Choice Act
Bronfenbrenner’s study and its conclusions will likely contribute to the ongoing debate over the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). The Act would make it easier for workers to form unions and would reduce the advantages that employers currently hold (such as using anti-union intimidation tactics). Moreover, it would mandate that contracts be signed quicker and allow unions to be formed either through the elections process–which has been thoroughly manipulated by corporations over the years–or through a majority sign-up.
Not surprisingly, the Employee Free Choice Act has been opposed by major corporations and business groups, including some here in West Michigan. The United States Chamber of Commerce rejected this study, saying that it was skewed in favor of labor, although it was peer-reviewed by other academics in the field.