In a continuation of recent trends, unions in 2009 were victorious in 68,5 percent of all representation elections. The win rate represents the highest winning percentage by unions in the last 25 years. The Teamsters (62 percent win rate) were the most active union in 2009 by participating in 366 elections and organizing 14,312 workers. The Teamsters were followed by the United Food and Commercial Workers (54 percent win rate) and Service Employees International Union (69 percent win rate) who participated in 106 and 93 elections, respectively.
In addition, unions appeared to have the greatest success when organizing very small (<50 employees) or very large (≥ 500 employees) bargaining units. Specifically, unions won 70 percent of 862 elections for very small units and 71.4 percent of elections for very large units. Other than manufacturing and mining, the union won more than 50 percent of representation elections held in all industries with the highest win percentages occurring in transportation, utilities and construction.
Notably, however, the number of representation elections in 2009 dropped by 20 percent and the number of newly organized workers in 2009 dropped by 30 percent. In total, the number of representation elections fell from 1,612 in 2008 to 1,293 in 2009. Consequently, although unions presently are winning the vast majority of representation elections, they are filing far fewer election petitions. In other words, unions are being much more selective when filing petitions – resulting in them only filing petitions in circumstances when they believe they will win.
The decrease in representation petitions does not mean, however, that unions have stopped trying to organize non-union employers. To the contrary, unions now focus on non-NLRB organizing methods to coerce employers into granting voluntary recognition to unions. Examples include "corporate campaigns" whereby unions pressure employers to voluntarily recognize the union via the filing of burdensome administrative charges, litigation and subjecting the employer to negative public relations. Unions are also actively organizing public sector workers, where organized labor's active support (financial and otherwise) of politicians has led to favorable organizing results. Consequently, even though the number of election petitions filed is down dramatically in recent years, labor still has been growing membership as its priority.
It is important for employers to recognize the signs of organizing campaigns. These trends demonstrate that the unions are active in their organizing efforts. Consult with counsel if you have questions about possible organizing activities at your business.