Quick elections, bigger unions?

Protesters cheer during a rally in support of Wisconsin workers fighting the Republican governor's plan to bust public workers' unions in Washington on February 26, 2011.

JEREMY HOBSON: The National Labor Relations Board has just proposed new rules designed to speech up the voting process for workers who want to unionize.

Marketplace's Eve Troeh reports labor unions are all in favor.


EVE TROEH: When unions organize American workers, it's a two step process. First, they have to get employees to sign a petition saying they want a union. If enough workers do, the National Labor Relations Board authorizes an election. The board takes months to set up those elections.

John Beck teaches labor relations at Michigan State University. He says the longer the lag time between signing up and voting, the more likely workers are to change their minds.

JOHN BECK: So if you can shorten that time, you lessen the possibility that workers are going to get immense cold feet.

He says the new rules would let unions send signatures electronically. And remove other red tape. That should help unions win more workers.

But Princeton University economist Henry Farber says the U.S. labor movement will still shrink.

HENRY FARBER: It's not as if the reason labor unions are disappearing is because there's a cumbersome election process. It's because the economic realities of the global economy we live in make it very difficult for U.S. workers to get higher wages.

I'm Eve Troeh for Marketplace.

About the author

Eve Troeh is News Director at WWNO-FM in New Orleans, La., helping build the first public radio news department in the station’s 40-year history. She reported for the Marketplace Sustainability Desk from 2010 to 2013.

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