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Why the National Labor Relations Board is important

Posted by Sara Cooper | Jul 28, 2023 | 0 Comments

Summer solidarity is among us – Starbucks Workers United helping stores across the nation becoming unionized – UPS Teamsters reaching a historic, tentative deal – a double strike for WGA and SAG-AFTRA against Hollywood's AMPTP. It's a movement that has just begun.

The legal process to start a union, renew a contract with demands from workers, or getting an employee representative for the company's board all has to go through the NLRB – the National Labor Relations Board.

It's a government agency that gives protections for workers in improving their job's conditions and excel their living wage. They are pretty much an oversight for ensuring that abusive practices at the workplaces do not go unnoticed and are penalized to those whom are accountable.

Right now, the NLRB is in serious danger, in a position that House Republicans are trying to get away with as conservatives are highly known to be there for the bootlickers and not the working class people. CEOs I am sure are happy about this.

Those in the GOP have released their proposed 2024 labor budget, and they want to cut NLRB funding by 33 percent. According to Perfect Union, as unions are surging and more popular than ever, the GOP wants to hurt the federal government's ability to safeguard worker organizing as much as they can.

The NLRB Union has called Republicans' proposed budget cuts “an existential blow to the agency's ability to enforce federal labor law in the workplace”.

Series of tweets from @TheNLRBU Twitter: “To recap, the NLRB last year was granted its first budget increase 2014. This increase, while warmly welcomed, was a mere 8%. When accounting for inflation, this is FAR below what the agency should have in resources if Congress had fairly funded it over the last decade.

“Most of last year's increase has simply gone to keeping the lights on. Some hiring has been done, but we are mostly replacing what is lost through standard annual attrition. We are not even close to replacing the 50% of field staff that have left the agency since 2002.”

“Work is still flooding in at levels not seen in years. Unfair labor practice charge filings are up; representation petitions are WAY up. More investigations, more elections, more trials.

Result: a smaller number of dedicated civil servants are being asked to do more than less.”

“And now, the House not only wants to take away that small increase, it wants to take us back to 1999 levels – the first year the NLRB had a budget as small as the one they are proposing.

Anyone who care about labor rights in this country should be appalled at this proposal.”

Here is a brief timeline of independent café organizing, an exploding growth of unionizing for the past year that NLRB has been involved with, courtesy of HR Dive:

  • June 2017

Workers at Gimme Coffee in Ithaca, New York voted to form a union with Workers United. In February, 2018 the union ratified its first contract with the company. Conflict within the union and changes in the workplace led to a decertification campaign in 2021, which was defeated in April 2023.

  • May 2019

Workers at SPoT Coffee locations in western New York began organizing with Workers United. The union won its elections, and negotiated a contract with the coffee chain in March 2020.

  • August 2020

At Colectivo locations in Chicago and Wisconsin, workers formed organizing committees and began working with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. The campaign won an election in early 2021, but delays over challenged ballots mean the NLRB did not certify the union's victory until April 2022.

  • June 2021

Workers organizing with Unite Here in Boston persuaded management at Pavement Coffeehouse to agree to a card check procedure and voluntary recognition, rather than an NLRB election. On Aug. 5, 2022 Pavement workers ratified a union contract. Workers at other Boston-area coffee chains including Darwin'sDiesel, Block and Forge, and 1369 followed suit, organizing throughout 2021 and 2022.

  • August 2021

Starbucks Workers United begins organizing cafes in Buffalo, New York, kicking off a national campaign reaching more than 330 stores by June, 2023.

  • July 2022

Heine Brothers workers in Louisville, Kentucky began a campaign to organize their workplace. The union, the National Conference of Firemen and Oilers, a part of SEIU Local 32BJ, won in a September, 2022 election overseen by the NLRB.

  • November 2022

In a campaign that would later spread to Chicago and Los Angeles, workers at La Colombe in Washington, D.C. moved to unionize with the United Food and Commercial Workers. The union won its first election, withdrew a petition for a second D.C. unit, won another election in Chicago in January 2023, and an election in California in May.

  • December 2022

In Los Angeles, workers organizing with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers successfully organized at least one Intelligentsia Coffee location, winning an election in January 2023.

  • February 2023

In New York City, workers sought representation with the UFCW at several Blank Street Coffee locations. The union won representation at some, but lost at another in an NLRB election in April.

More information on food service organizing of the HR Dive article, please click here: It's not just Starbucks: Why cafes are hotbeds for unionizing | HR Dive

For the well-being of workers across the country, contact your representatives and tell them to fund the National Labor Relations Board.

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