Unions Winning More Elections, but Facing Diminishing Returns
According to a Bloomberg BNA report, unions won more representation elections, with a higher win rate, in initial NLRB-monitored representation elections in the first half of 2014 compared to the same period in 2013, but the number of newly organized employees fell drastically, and unions have been losing decertification elections more often.
Unions won 8.6 percent more elections in the first six months of 2014 compared to the same period in 2013 (428 to 465). Unions were more successful not only at increasing the absolute number of representation elections held and won, but also their win rate improved 3.7 percent, to 69.2 percent (428 out of 653 in the first half of 2013, to 465 out of 671 in the first half of 2014).
The Teamsters were the most active of all unions based on the number of elections in which they participated, but the Service Employees International Union both won more elections and organized more employees than the Teamsters. The Machinists Union, however, had the highest win rate of all unions, winning 90.2 percent of its elections, although it was involved in far fewer elections than either the Teamsters or the SEIU.
The improvement unions made in the number of NLRB representation elections won and their win rate was undermined by a significant decrease in the number of new members unions added through those elections—the number of workers organized as a result of those elections fell precipitously. In the first half of 2013, 65,861 new workers were unionized through NLRB elections, but in the first half of 2014, only 25,754 new workers were unionized—a 61 percent decrease. The smaller number of organized employees (as well as the increase in the unions’ winning percentage) may reflect an increase in the number of “micro-units” sought by unions. Micro-units are easier to organize because there are fewer employees from whom the union must get authorization cards, and the peer pressure to vote in favor of the union in the subsequent election is higher.
In addition, unions lost substantially more decertification elections (elections in which employees vote on whether to remove the union as their representative) in the first half of 2014 compared to the same period in 2013. In the first six months of 2013, unions lost 59.6 percent of decertification elections, but in the first half of 2014, unions lost 70.1 percent of the elections.
This data presents a mixed bag for employers. On the one hand, unions are winning more often when they are able to collect enough authorization cards to force an NLRB election. On the other hand, far fewer employees are actually being organized, and unions are being decertified at a greater clip. The bottom line: the best union-avoidance strategy is to ensure your employees do not feel the need to sign a union authorization card.