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Trump Rule Slows Down Union Elections

A study found the new rule slowed down elections, resulting in more wins for employers

Brian Young's picture
Jan 04, 2021

2020 was a tough year for everyone, but it was especially difficult for workers to organize a union. In addition to the pandemic, workers were faced with changing rules that were meant to slow down organizing. With 2020 now in the books, it appears this has worked as a new report shows that union elections took longer in 2020 and resulted in fewer victories for the workers.

According to a Bloomberg Law analysis, union elections took an average of 31 days in 2020 instead of the median of 24 days from 2016 through 2019. The 2020 time was also longer than any single year between 2016 and 2019. While some of the blame definitely goes to the pandemic, some can also be put on the change to election procedures that the Republican-led NLRB instituted. These new rules slowed down the process and took effect in June. The changes repealed some of the Obama era rules that simplified and accelerated certain election procedures. Business groups pushed back against them saying that they were beneficial to unions. The new rules allow bosses to gum up the process, slowing it down, allowing them to use procedural motions, and allowing them more time to push back against the union.

Data shows that 127 elections lasted for 60 days or more in 2020. In comparison, just 56 elections on average went that long between 2016 and 2019. The slowdowns appear to have helped employers with win rates for unions down 19% versus contests that were decided in two weeks or less.

The longer election times have also resulted in an overall decrease in wins for unions. Although they won a majority of the elections, organized labor only won 70% of the time in 2020. This was the lowest number since 2014 and was a 5% drop from 2019.

The slowdown of union elections is something that working people should want a new Biden administration to change. Bloomberg found that if an election takes place within 14 days of filing, on average of the past 8 years, a union will win 85% of the time. Yet, this number drops all the way down to 66% when the election takes more than 60 days.

One caveat to the numbers is that 2020 also saw significantly fewer elections, likely due to COVID-19. Through November, only 800 union elections have taken place. This is far fewer than the average of 1,300 over the seven prior years.

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