Bloomberg Law
Feb. 7, 2023, 4:58 PM

ANALYSIS: Labor’s Triumphant Organizing Year May Not Be Its Last

Robert Combs
Robert Combs
Legal Analyst

The year-end figures on National Labor Relations Board elections are in, and they confirm that 2022 was a resurgent year for union organizers. A lot changed in one year, but it’s what didn’t change that provides the clearest sign that unionization could keep growing for years to come.

First, here’s what changed. According to Bloomberg Law’s newly released NLRB Election Statistics report, unions in 2022 had a singularly successful organizing year, winning more NLRB representation elections than in any year since 2005.

The rise from 764 wins in 2021 to 1,196 wins in 2022 is the largest one-year increase on record. Amazingly, 2022’s union win count alone exceeded the total number of NLRB elections—win or lose—in three of the past five years.

Meanwhile, the number of workers who joined unions as a result of NLRB elections more than doubled. Last year’s 1,196 union wins yielded 75,290 new union members—more than were organized in 2021 (36,934) and 2020 (35,243) combined.

2022 was a huge departure from a decades-long downward trend, to be sure. But here’s what didn’t change last year: Unions are still racking up extremely high win rates, and they don’t seem to be stopping.

A curious historical fact is that, as the total number of union wins has fallen over the years, the percentage of elections won by unions has risen. Over time, unions have been grabbing a steadily larger slice of a steadily shrinking pie, pushing their win rates from sub-50% in the 1980s to above 70% in recent years.

Given 2022’s huge turnaround in wins, you’d think that labor’s win percentage would have decreased accordingly. But that’s not what happened.

Unions won 76% of the 1,573 NLRB elections held in 2022—a statistical tie for the highest success rate on record. The trend line held true in terms of worker percentages too: Union wins covered 80% of the 95,080 workers eligible to be organized, also the highest rate yet.

A turnaround in NLRB election opportunities, coupled with ever-growing union success rates? If this is the start of a new trend, it could change the game for labor relations.

Bloomberg Law’s NLRB Election Statistics: Year-End 2022 report is available to Bloomberg Law subscribers on our Labor Plus: Organizing and Bargaining Data resource.

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