January 27, 2011
The Return of Labor Union Bullies?
Nine of the ten most active labor unions have experienced extraordinary improvements in winning certification elections, according to an analysis just completed by The Walker Companies.
Leading the pack are the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) and the United Steel Workers of America (USA). These unions saw an increase in their certification election win ratios of 24.6% and 25.4%, respectively, over the period 2005-2009 compared to 2000-2004.
From 2000-2009 there were more than 19,000 union certification elections in the U.S. The ten most active unions over that time frame (shown in the chart at right) accounted for 70% of these elections, with the Teamsters alone holding 27% of them.
Walker’s analysis split these elections into two groups: those held between 2000 and 2004, and those occurring between 2005 and 2009.
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Comparing election results in these two time periods shows some alarming results among the ten most active unions. The number of elections held from 2005-2009 dropped sharply for most unions compared to the period 2000-2004, the International Association of Machinists (IAM) the lone exception. This union showed an increase of 1%. The United Auto Workers (UAW) displayed the steepest decline, with election activity off by more than 50%.
Before you start celebrating however, note that this decline in certification election volume was accompanied by sharp gains in union success in winning the elections held. Of the ten top unions, only the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) exhibited a decline in its win ratio, by 7.1%. Half the unions put up double digit increases in their win ratios, a troubling sign for industry.
With Republican control of the House of Representatives, we can expect a halt to legislative efforts to make it easier to unionize. However, given the recent successes these large unions have had expect more intense organizing. The UAW has already announced its intention to launch a big organizing campaign.
Many major labor organizations are deeply in debt as a result of massive spending on political campaigns. Climbing out of this hole while carrying significant pension obligations means they will be hungry for union dues. If the
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Congress won’t play ballon card check, the unions’ recent successes, which are attributable to good old fashioned organizing, may spell trouble for employers.