House Lawmakers Call for More Funding for Union Elections in Connection with Organizing Spreads

More than 140 members of Congress are calling on House leaders to end eight years of fixed funding for the National Labor Relations Council, saying the agency is unable to cope with the surge in job organization at companies like Starbucks and Amazon.

AT letter Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, was warned by 149 lawmakers that a “labor boom” could overwhelm the underfunded council, which has lost roughly 30% of its staff since 2010. due to exhaustion and lack of money. All but four of its signatories are Democrats.

They called for a labor council budget of $368 million for the next fiscal year, up from the current level of $274 million that hasn’t changed since 2014. The stagnant funding in recent years means the agency’s budget has shrunk in real dollars.

A similar letter with the same $368 million offer was circulated in the Senate, led by Senators Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania) and John Hickenlooper (D-Colorado).

The push comes as union activists and board officials sound the alarm about the agency’s weakened state, fearing that a lack of resources will leave workers more vulnerable to union busting.

“Rep. Donald Norcross, himself a union member, said the labor council “starved to death within the last decade.”

Rep. Donald Norcross, co-chair of the House Labor caucus, led the letter to DeLauro and Rep. Tom Cole (Oklahoma), the top Republican on the appropriations subcommittee that funds employment agencies.

Norcross told HuffPost that NLRBs have “starved to death within the last decade” and that workers trying to collectively bargain will eventually pay the price.

“This has been going on for too long,” said Norcross, a member of the International Brotherhood of Electricians. “This year we have to change it.”

The NLRB oversees union elections in the private sector and handles disputes between labor groups and employers. The agency’s general counsel says campaign petitions in fiscal 2022 are up 57% from the previous year. There was also a 17% increase in allegations of “bad labor practices” or allegations of breaking the law.

Much of the influx of campaign petitions comes directly from Starbucks, where workers are running one of the most high-profile organizing campaigns in decades. So far, 30 of the chain’s stores have voted to unionize, and in total, more than 200 have petitioned for an election.

Workers at Amazon’s Staten Island warehouse, which employs about 8,000 people, recently made history by forming the company’s first union in the US. Meanwhile, workers at a separate facility nearby, numbering about 1,500, are also voting this week on whether to join the Amazon union.

A push for more funding for the council could see fights with GOP members in both houses, who appear to have drawn a red line on giving the agency more money. The labor council has a statutory mission: promote collective bargainingand many members of the Republican Party seem glad that it is fading.

The House Republicans who joined the Democrats in the letter are Jeff’s representatives. Van Drew (NJ), Chris Smith (NJ), Brian Fitzpatrick (Pennsylvania) and Don Bacon (Nebraska).

Christian Smalls, Amazon union president, speaks at a rally outside an Amazon facility in Staten Island on Sunday.

Norcross acknowledged that more Democratic political capital would be needed to increase funding.

“I don’t expect it to be easy,” he said. “If it was easy, it would be done [already]”.

Since 2010, the number of full-time employees of the NLRB has decreased from 1733 to 1207 people. Most of the cuts were for regional offices that do field work, such as investigating unfair labor practices needed to ensure workers’ rights are upheld in the workplace. The agency estimates that, adjusted for inflation, its budget has been cut by 25% since 2010.

In the long run, the number of cases has declined, but the agency’s staff has declined at a faster rate, and the size of the board-regulated workforce has grown significantly.

In a recent interview with HuffPost, NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo said she was concerned the board would not be able to fulfill its statutory mission if the fixed funding was held for much longer, as it would delay cases and harm workers trying to organize their jobs.

“There is [only] we have so much bandwidth,” Abruzzo said. “We have problems making sure that hearings are held as quickly as possible, that decisions are made as soon as possible, that we are investigating cases as quickly as we can.”

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