During the first six months of Fiscal Year 2022 (October 1–March 31), union representation petitions filed at the NLRB have increased 57%—up to 1,174 from 748 during the first half of FY2021. At the same time, unfair labor practice charges have increased 14%—from 7,255 to 8,254.

A representation petition is filed by employees, unions, or employers with an NLRB Field Office to have the NLRB conduct an election to determine if employees wish to be represented by a union. The Field Office investigates the petitions and, if meritorious, conducts an election to allow employees to decide whether or not they wish to be represented by a union.

An unfair labor practice charge is filed by any member of the public with an NLRB Field Office if they believe an employer or union has violated the National Labor Relations Act. The Field Office will then investigate the charge and issue a complaint, absent settlement, if the Regional Director determines the charge has merit.  

The increase in cases comes during a period of critical funding and staffing shortages for the Agency. The NLRB has received the same Congressional appropriation of $274.2 million for nine consecutive years as costs have risen. Adjusting for inflation, the Agency’s budget is equivalent to $205.6 million, a decrease of 25% since FY2010. Overall Agency staffing levels have dropped 39% since FY2002 and field staffing has shrunk by 50%.

Last week, President Biden released his FY2023 budget, which requests $319.4 million for the NLRB—a 16% increase, which will help start modernizing the Agency’s technology infrastructure, but will not fully address staffing needs. As detailed in its FY2023 Congressional Budget Justification, more than three-quarters (77%) of the NLRB’s budget goes directly to staffing costs.

“Right now, there is a surge in labor activity nationwide, with workers organizing and filing petitions for more union elections than they have in the last ten years. This has caused a significant increase in the NLRB’s caseload, and the Agency urgently needs more staff and resources to effectively comply with our Congressional mandate,” said NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo. “While our dedicated board agents continue to process petitions and conduct elections, investigate and prosecute statutory violations, and obtain remedies for victims of unfair labor practices, the NLRB needs a significant increase of funds to fully effectuate the mission of the Agency.”

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