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ANALYSIS: Union Decertifications Rose Sharply in First-Half 2021

Aug. 30, 2021, 9:00 AM

The National Labor Relations Board’s midyear election results are in, and they show a sharp increase in the number of decertifications—that is, the number of worker groups voting themselves out of union representation—in the first half of 2021.

Unionized workers held 69 total decertification elections in first-half 2021—a 30% increase over the 53 decert elections that the NLRB oversaw in first-half 2020. (In contrast, 2021 saw only a 4% increase in the much-larger number of union representation elections, from 446 to 463.)

Unions lost 46 of those 69 elections, compared with only 28 losses in first-half 2020—a 64% increase. All told, more than two-thirds (67.6%) of the 5,758 union workers covered by first-half 2021 decert elections lost their union representation. In first-half 2020, unions lost just 45.1% of their workers.

So, what’s the story this year? Is 2021 some kind of statistical outlier? Actually, no: 2020 was.

Looking back at the past five years of decertification data, it’s easy to see in 2021 a slow return to pre-pandemic labor trends. If the second half of the year ends up mirroring the first, then 2021’s total decertification elections and total union losses will still be higher than 2020’s, but not as high as in a typical year in 2016–2019. (The number of workers lost would be higher, but the sizes of bargaining units in decert elections can’t really be projected.)

2020’s totals, on the other hand, were severely—and understandably—curtailed. Even the NLRB itself had to shut down temporarily in late March. The low number of decert elections, and high union retention rate in those elections, tell a clear story of a workforce wanting nothing more than to stand pat during trying times.

Bloomberg Law subscribers can find related content on our Labor Plus: Organizing and Bargaining Data resource, including the newly released NLRB Election Statistics: Midyear 2021 report.

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To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Combs in Washington at rcombs@bloomberglaw.com