Days after a historic vote at an Amazon warehouse on Staten Island minted the e-commerce giant’s first-ever union, new data shows that the U.S. labor movement has had a remarkably successful six months.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) received 1,174 union representation petitions between October 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022, up 57% from the same timeframe between 2020 and 2021, according to a new report released by the federal agency on Wednesday.
The spike in petitions indicates that workplaces are unionizing at an increased rate. Employers, employees or unions can file these petitions with the NLRB whenever an employer declines to voluntarily recognize a new union. Once the NLRB receives a petition, it will set up a formal vote for eligible union members. If 51% or more of voting employees vote “yes,” employers are legally required to recognize the union and begin bargaining for a union contract.
Complaints about allegedly unscrupulous employers have also jumped in the last six months. Unfair labor practice charges grew by 14% year-over-year, the agency said on Wednesday. Anyone can file a charge with the NLRB if they believe an employer or union has violated the National Labor Relations Act, which prohibits behavior such as retaliation against employees who discuss organizing a union in their workplace. In all, the NLRB reported 8,254 such charges over the last six months, up from 7,255 a year prior.
While Amazon’s Staten Island warehouse union vote’s success captured international attention, it was far from the only major recent union vote. Workers at ten Starbucks shops across the country have voted to unionize over the past few months. In early March, The New York Times’ roughly 600 tech workers voted to form a union after management declined to voluntarily recognize it, although the Times’ newsroom has already been unionized for decades. A few weeks later, a small group of Google Fiber contractors in Kansas City, Missouri voted in favor of a union, becoming the first workers with bargaining rights within the 800-person Alphabet Workers Union.
The growing labor movement means more work for the NLRB, which is demanding greater resources from Washington. President Biden’s 2023 budget plan, unveiled last week, includes a 16% increase in funding for the agency–but the NLRB stated in a press release that this bump “will not fully address staffing needs.”
“Right now, there is a surge in labor activity nationwide, with workers organizing and filing petitions for more union elections than they have in the last ten years,” NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo said. “This has caused a significant increase in the NLRB’s caseload, and the Agency urgently needs more staff and resources.”