Union Election Petitions Skyrocket Amid High Profile Union Victories

By Greg Hoff posted 04-08-2022 00:00


Union representation petitions filed with the National Labor Relations Board increased 57%—up to 1,174 from 748—in the first six months of FY2022, and unfair labor practice charges spiked 14% over the same period. With President Biden warning Amazon “here we come,” these trends represent an administration willing to use the full extent of its executive and agency authority not only to increase union density but also amplify the rise of employee voice.

“Right now, there is a surge in labor activity nationwide,” said NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo. The increases in union representation petitions and unfair labor practice charges began roughly around the same time a Democratic majority took over at the Board. The NLRB used the release of the data to call for more funding for its enforcement efforts, despite President Biden’s FY2023 budget already providing for a 16% increase in funding for the agency, which the Board claimed “will not fully address staffing needs.”

Amazon Labor Union victory could create a key foothold and model for future organizing efforts. The union campaign against Amazon - notably by an independent union with few if any ties to Big Labor - was given full-throated support by President Biden, who, while addressing the North America’s Building Trade Unions, warned, “Amazon, here we come. Watch.”

Yet only 58% of eligible workers participated in the Amazon election, and less than a third voted in favor of representation.  According to a statement by the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, “This is not a model for long-term industrial democracy or stability. The Board needs to work on increasing voter participation and ensure that the decision to enlist a union as an exclusive representative is supported by the majority of employees.” 

Outlook: Employers can expect the wave of union activity and employee activism to continue, backed by the full weight of the Biden administration. HR Policy members can stay up to date on developing federal labor law issues with the Association’s quarterly NLRB Update report, available here. For a practical overview designed for senior leaders who need a strategic understanding of federal labor law and how to operate effectively in a union environment, members can register for the Association’s Fundamentals of U.S. Labor Relations training course, next held April 12-14. Session details and registration information can be found here.