NLRB issues 2005 report on elections and workers rights

Union organizing is holding steady at virtually nil, and complaints of employer violations of labor law are on the decline, judging from the most recent annual report of the National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency that administers the basic law governing relations between labor unions and business.

The NLRB reported that during the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2005, it oversaw 2,649 union elections covering 146,822 workers; voter turnout was 80 percent on average, and majorities voted “Union yes” 56.8 percent of the time, resulting in 69,537 new union members, or about 4 hundredths of a percent of the U.S. workforce. However, that figure doesn’t capture voluntary recognition of workers, such as took place at Cingular Wireless. Some unions are trying to organize workers without going through NLRB-sponsored elections, because the election rules are seen as favoring the employer.

Just over 57 percent of union elections were held in workplaces with less than 30 workers; only 12 elections took place in units of over 1,000 workers.

In Oregon, the NLRB oversaw 51 union elections with 2,095 employees eligible to vote. Twenty-six of those elections were won by unions. Eligible employees cast 1,601 valid votes — 878 of them for unionization. In all, 1,230 new union members were gained.

In Washington, 169 NLRB elections took place, with 126 union victories. Some 8,951 employees were eligible to vote; 5, 958 cast ballots — with 3,686 voting for unionization. All told, labor added 5,803 new members.

For the fourth year in a row, the number of complaints alleging employer labor law violations fell. In 2005, there were 24,720 charges of “unfair labor practices” filed. The most common charge against employers is refusal to bargain with a union, followed by illegal firing or discrimination against workers for union activity.

In cases where the NLRB found that workers had been fired or discriminated against for union activity, the agency won a total of $83.8 million in back pay and 2,008 offers of reinstatement; 1,580 workers accepted reinstatement.

Though its legal and bureaucratic language can make it a challenge to interpret, the full report is available at