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National Labor Relations Board headquarters

The National Labor Relations Board is headquartered at 1099 14th Street N.W. in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Geraldshields11/WikiMedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Lawmakers Urge NLRB Budget Boost Amid 'Dramatic Increase' in Unionization

"With this skyrocketing workload, the NLRB is now responsible for far more workers than a decade ago yet has been denied the funding to meet these statutory requirements."

Brett Wilkins

Citing a "dramatic increase in labor activity" that's straining staff at the National Labor Relations Board, nearly 150 U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday urged congressional leaders to boost the agency's budget, which in real dollars has fallen by nearly a quarter over the past decade.

"Just in the first half of FY2022, union election petitions were up 57% and unfair labor practice charges were up 14% compared to this time in 2021."

In a letter led by Rep. Donald Norcross (D-N.J.), 145 House Democrats and four Republicans ask Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Tom Cole (R-Okla.), respectively the chair and ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, to increase the NLRB's budget by at least $94 million for the next fiscal year.

Norcross told HuffPost that the NLRB—which enforces federal laws involving collective bargaining and unfair labor practices—was being "starved to death over the course of the last decade" at the expense of workers' organizing efforts.

"It's been going on way too long," said Norcross, who is a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. "This year we must change it."

The letter notes that since 2010, the agency's budget has decreased 25% in real dollars adjusted for inflation, and argues that an "increase in funding would provide long-overdue resources to allow the NLRB to accomplish its statutory mission."

"Despite the NLRB's vital mission, the board has received the same appropriation of $274 million for nine consecutive fiscal years," the signers state. "Additionally, overall staffing levels have dropped by 39% over the past two decades and field staffing has been cut in half."

"These cuts come while there has been a dramatic increase in labor activity which has caused a higher caseload for NLRB staff," the lawmakers continue. "Just in the first half of FY2022, union election petitions were up 57% and unfair labor practice charges were up 14% compared to this time in 2021."

"Additionally, with 60 million nonunion workers saying they would join a union if given the chance (including nearly 75% of young workers age 18-24), we only expect union election petitions to further increase," the letter adds. "With this skyrocketing workload, the NLRB is now responsible for far more workers than a decade ago yet has been denied the funding to meet these statutory requirements."

NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo called the situation "unsustainable" in a March interview with HuffPost.

"There's [only] so much bandwidth we have," she warned. "We have trouble just making sure that hearings are done in short order, that decisions are being issued in short order, that we're investigating cases as quickly as we possibly can."

Recent high-profile NLRB cases include several lawsuits targeting alleged Starbucks labor law violations amid a nationwide unionization drive by workers at the coffee giant, and a suit accusing online retail titan Amazon of "flagrant unfair labor practices" against workers who successfully unionized a Staten Island warehouse earlier this month.

A similar letter calling for an NLRB budget increase is circulating in the U.S. Senate, HuffPost reports.


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