Notes on Labor Data by Forest Gregg
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Thirty-nine years of Unfair Labor Practice Case Data

February 01, 2023

When my first child was born, I bought an Olivetti Praxis 48 to restore as I stayed up with him.

Last month, we welcomed another child into our world, and the parternal urge has been channeled towards refurbishing archives of the two previous NLRB case management systems: the Case Activity Tracking System (CATS) that the NLRB used from around 1999 through 2011 and the Case Handling Information Processing System (CHIPS)–the first NLRB electronic system–that was in operation from 1984 through 2000.

I’ve had versions of these datasets on the labor data warehouse for a while, but I’ve located and added the ULP cases to the CATS data, and converted many columns in the CHIPS data to forms that are much easier to use.

This means that we now have pretty detailed case-level data for unfair labor practice cases going back to 1984. I think this is the first time that this has all been pulled together. We also have the representation cases for the same period, which is also fantastic, but Hank Farber has had that data for a while.

One thing that the CHIPS data helps me see is how interesting the year 2000 is. In his wonderful article, “Union Organizing Decisions in a Deteriorating Environment: The Composition of Representation Elections and the Decline in Turnout”, Hank Farber points out the turn of the millenium as a transition point in how workers vote in NLRB elctions and what types of workplaces organizers bring to the NLRB.

In an analysis that covers some of the same ground, I looked at the changing success rate of NLRB election petitions, and 2000 is the year when the win rate of elections, and petitions really starts to increase.

Farber doesn’t really put forward an explanation about why 2000 was such a pivotal year. His paper has a very nice argument about why we could tend to see a higher NLRB win rate and fewer NLRB petitions (basically, if it’s much more costly for unions to run NLRB election campaigns, they will tend to focus on organzing worksites where they have a high chance of winning). But Farber doesn’t identify anything that was particularly important for making organizing harder in 2000.

I don’t really know either. Maybe you have ideas.

Help with the Unfair Labor Data

The CHIPS data comes from records on deposit with the National Archive. Unfortunately, their deposit doesn’t have all the lookup tables that you would need to make sense of the data. To figure out, say, which union is involved in a representation certification case, we need to link a numeric ID to a table of union names.

The information we need for that is in a big codebook, but it needs to get transcribed into tables. Let me know if that’s something you might want to help with.

FOIA Corner

Two interesting FOIAs came in recently:

Working with the CATS and CHIPS databases, there’s a lot of data that was recorded in those data systems that is not publicly exposed to on the NLRB website. So, I also submitted a FOIA for the database schema of NLRB’s current case management system NxGen.

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