The number of workers petitioning to join a union is skyrocketing as workers wage successful union campaigns across the country at major corporations like Starbucks and Amazon, new data from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) shows.
Between October 1 and June 30 – the first nine months of Fiscal Year 2022 – union petitions filed with the NLRB were up 58 percent over the same period of Fiscal Year 2021. Workers filed 1,197 petitions during the first nine months of FY 2021, whereas during the same period in FY 2022, the NLRB saw 1,892 filings.
Further, the number of petitions filed between October and the end of May – just eight months into the current fiscal year – exceeded the number of petitions filed in the entirety of FY 2021.
Unfair labor practice charges, or charges often filed by unions alleging that companies are violating federal labor laws, are also trending upwards. Over the first nine months of this fiscal year, unfair labor practice allegations have increased 16 percent over FY 2021, growing from 11,082 to 12,819.
These findings are similar to data released by the agency earlier this year in April, when the NLRB board reported that petitious to unionize increased by 57 percent and allegations of unfair labor practices increased by 14 percent over the previous year during the first six months of FY 2022.
In a press release, the NLRB says that the increase in filings is evidence that the NLRB is in dire need of more funding to accommodate the greater demand.
Owing to years of conservative efforts to oppose labor advocacy and shrink the NLRB, the agency has not seen a budget increase in nearly a decade – meaning that, in real dollars, the agency’s budget has shrunk by 25 percent since FY 2010.
At the same time, the agency is having to deal with a surge of union activity in the U.S. reaching levels that haven’t been seen for at least a few decades.
“The increase in cases comes during a period of critical funding and staffing shortages for the Agency. The NLRB has received the same Congressional appropriation of $274.2 million for nine consecutive years as costs have risen,” said NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo in a statement.
Budget shortages have created understaffing issues at the agency, according to the statement. “Overall Agency staffing levels have dropped 39 percent since FY2002 and field staffing has shrunk by 50 percent,” Abruzzo continued. “We need Congress to help us restore the capacity that we have lost after years of underfunding.”
The surge in labor activity nationwide has caused a significant increase in the NLRB’s caseload, and the Agency urgently needs more staff and resources to effectively comply with our Congressional mandate. pic.twitter.com/VCGRwj6OcA
— NLRB General Counsel (@NLRBGC) July 13, 2022
President Joe Biden asked Congress in his 2023 budget request to provide the board a 16 percent increase over its current budget for a total of $319 million. Some Democrats in Congress have pushed for a higher increase of at least 34 percent to $368 million. It’s unclear if these budget increases – which are infinitesimally small compared to the massive and growing defense budget – will have enough support in Congress to pass.
The NLRB has weathered years of attacks from conservatives; for instance, unfair labor practice charges decreased under the Trump administration not because companies were violating the law less, but because unions knew that the Republican-majority board would have rejected the charges. Labor advocates say that increasing the board’s budget is critical to reversing such measures and supporting the burgeoning labor movement.
Note: Statistics on union filings in this article have been changed after the NLRB issued corrections to the data.
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