Union Activity

NLRB revives union election proposal. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is revisiting a 2011 effort to change regulations governing union representation elections — changes the NLRB claims would streamline elections and prevent unnecessary litigation. Employer groups strongly opposed the changes when they were proposed in 2011, saying they would rob employers of time necessary to respond to union organizing drives. The 2011 amendments were struck down in 2012 when a judge ruled the Board lacked the quorum necessary to take action. Board Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce said now that the NLRB has its full complement of five members, "I feel it is important for the Board to fully consider public comment on these proposed amendments, along with the comments we previously received in 2011." AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka praised the Board's action. "We applaud the National Labor Relations Board for proposing these common-sense rules to reduce delay in the NLRB election process," he said.

2013 union membership rate matches 2012. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announced in January that the 2013 union membership rate — the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of unions — was 11.3%, the same as in 2012. The number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions, at 14.5 million, was little different from 2012. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1%, and there were 17.7 million union workers. 2013 data show that public-sector workers had a union membership rate (35.3%) more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers (6.7%). Workers in education, training, and library occupations and in protective service occupations had the highest unionization rate, at 35.3% for each occupation group. Men had a higher union membership rate (11.9%) than women (10.5%). Black workers were more likely to be union members than white, Asian, or Hispanic workers. New York continued to have the highest union membership rate (24.4%), and North Carolina had the lowest rate (3%).

Union speaks out against poultry inspection outsourcing. The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) has called on Congress to reject a budget proposal from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service to implement a new poultry inspection system during fiscal year 2014. AFGE says the proposal would remove most federal inspectors from the slaughter line and turn over inspection activities to plant employees. The proposal also would allow plants to increase their line speeds up to 175 chicken carcasses per minute, giving the one remaining federal inspector one-third of one second to examine each chicken carcass.