Cornell University

June 27 2011

Reducing Worker Harassment

Streamlined union certification process would help stem intimidation:  Bronfenbrenner research

Federal regulators would reduce anti-union coercion, threats and retaliation by shortening the process that leads to workers voting on union formation, according to a study released today by ILR School and Columbia University researchers.

Under the current process, the most serious anti-union intimidation is in full swing by the time the petition for collective bargaining representation is filed with the National Labor Relations Board.

The study empirically supports a long-term effort by the board to shorten the time between filing a petition for unionization and the date when employees vote. That time period currently averages 56 days.

The study was conducted by Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of ILR's Office of Labor Education Research, and Dorian Warren, assistant professor at Columbia University's Department of Political Science and the School of International and Public Affairs.

Timing matters because "employer opposition continues unabated from the first moment the union campaign goes above ground, day after day and week after week leading up to the election, and does not stop until the union has either lost the election or won a first contract," the authors write.

"This cumulative effect of constant, pervasive and intense violations by employers undermines workers' rights under the current lengthy NLRB election process," Bronfenbrenner said.

"The Empirical Case for Streamlining the NLRB Certification Process: The Role of Date of Unfair Labor Practice Occurrence" concludes that streamlining the union certification process will reduce much employee harassment, interrogation, threats and retaliation that are constant and cumulative elements of employer campaigns.

Bronfenbrenner and Warren found that 47 percent of serious unfair labor practice violations occur before a unionization petition is filed. 

The study is available at http://iserp.columbia.edu.