Unions can’t thrive without a well-funded National Labor Relations Board

NewsFebruary 13, 2023

Following a year of headline-making labor battles, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) received its first budget increase in nearly a decade. While the funding increase is welcome news, the allocated 9 percent increase falls considerably short of Biden’s initial request of 16 percent.

We’ve seen a marked increase in unionization efforts throughout the country in recent years, from Amazon to Google to Trader Joe’s to Starbucks. NUHW has seen an increase, too. In 2022 alone, NUHW organized more healthcare workers than any year over the past decade, increasing its membership by nearly 10 percent. The union saw a record 517 inquiries from workers seeking to organize their healthcare facilities. 

Like all unions, NUHW relies heavily on the NLRB’s ability to facilitate elections, rule on grievance filings, and safeguard employees’ right to improve their working conditions. But in recent years the NLRB’s capacity has dwindled. 

In the face of millions spent in union-busting efforts by employers, in 2022 the NLRB received more than 2,500 filings for union elections — a 53 percent increase over the previous year — and processed nearly 18,000 unfair labor practice charges, a 23 percent increase over 2021. It also recovered more than $51 million in backpay, damages, fees, dues, and fines from employers and ensured 995 workers nationwide were offered job reinstatement.

But according to the NLRB, staffing levels at the board have dropped 39 percent since 2002 and staffing in field offices has shrunk by half, leaving the board short-staffed and under-resourced during a time of increasing demand. The resulting delays in both administrative and field activities at the NLRB are impacting its ability to keep up with processing the cases and elections it oversees. 

While it’s an important step forward, the NLRB’s modest budget increase is simply not enough. As more workers organize their workplaces, the NLRB needs increased funding to meet the growing demand of the U.S. labor movement. An efficient, functioning, properly funded NLRB is vital in safeguarding the right of workers to organize.