By COLIN STAUB
Last fall, a poll found public approval for unions was at its highest level since 1965. This year, high-profile organizing campaigns at Starbucks and Amazon have focused public attention on unionizing. And it’s not just buzz, or hype.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently quantified just how much union activity has increased since 2020—and how it’s making things difficult for an already underfunded agency: The NLRB received 1,892 union representation petitions from October 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022, up 58% from the same period a year earlier. Unfair labor practice charges also increased 16% to hit 12,819 during that period.
But one metric hasn’t increased: the agency’s funding. The NLRB has received $274.2 million annually for the past nine years, regardless of caseload. Adjusting for inflation, the agency says its budget has decreased by 25% since 2010 and that staffing has dropped 39% since 2002.
“The NLRB is processing the most cases it has seen in years with the lowest staffing levels in the past six decades,” NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo said in a release, adding that agency workers are handling “unsustainable caseloads.”
The NLRB “urgently needs more resources to process petitions and conduct elections, investigate unfair labor practice charges, and obtain full remedies for workers whose labor rights have been violated,” Abruzzo said.
Help may be coming. President Biden’s fiscal year 2023 budget proposal includes $319.4 million in NLRB funding, a 16% increase from its current funding. That’s not only to keep up with the current workload, but to prepare for even more expected growth. Early this year, a White House task force made numerous recommendations to promote worker organizing, many of which rely on more outreach and enforcement by NLRB staff.