Thursday, April 5, 2012

NLRB numbers add up but the rhetoric doesn’t

By Mark Wohlschlegel II

As has been his practice, Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon released his annual summary of the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) activities for the Fiscal Year.
One would expect all doom and gloom considering the harsh picture painted by critics of the union election process and how hard they and members of the NLRB had to fight (both internally and externally) last year to push through their “streamlined elections” rule. It was heralded as necessary to “reduce unnecessary litigation” and “streamline pre- and post- election procedures.”

If you listened to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, the process was a “broken, bureaucratic maze.” Rep. George Miller (D-CA) also criticized it as vulnerable to manipulation and delay.

Yet, despite all this criticism, Acting General Counsel Solomon praises the work of NLRB in Fiscal Year 2011 as “once again outstanding.”
This praise seems rather out of place given the harsh rhetoric above that describes a system that is both “broken” and “vulnerable.” However, upon investigation of the numbers, one cannot help but notice a clear contradiction.
As indicated in Table 1, the NLRB’s efficiency in conducting elections has remained rather steady over the past four years.

Table 2 makes the point that the NLRB has accomplished this despite having a fluctuating caseload over the past four years.


Similar to our comment submitted on NLRB’s Streamline of Elections Rule, the numbers here do not justify either the harsh criticism of the process, or the NLRB’s curious urgency in implementing the sweeping reform of “streamlining” union elections. Overall, the NLRB has maintained steady progress in both its effectiveness and efficiency of handling its workload. In FY 2011 the numbers dip slightly. That being said, the NLRB admittedly still met most of their targets for the year:

The Agency exceeded two of its three ambitious overarching goals and came close to achieving the third, closing 84.7 percent of all representation cases within 100 days (target 85 percentg), 72.5 percent of all unfair labor practice cases within 120 days (target 71.2 percent), and 83.2 percent of all meritorious unfair labor practice cases within 365 days (target 80.2 percent). The target for each 2011 overarching goal was higher than in FY 2010 and has been increased for FY 2012.
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