Watching the recent Senate Budget Committee hearing on labor relations issues, I heard two facts that made me sit up and take notice.

“After a union wins an election, the average number of days to get a contract is 409 days,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.). “And about a third of winning unions can’t get a contract in the first three years.”

The reason the first stat struck me is because it came from me. Or, should I say, it comes from Bloomberg Law labor data, which led to an article I published last summer.

The mention of Kaine prompted me to go back to our databases and update that number. The result: Based on our analysis of 391 records of first contracts signed since 2005, the average number of days it takes newly unionized employers and their newly unionized workers to ratify a first contract has risen to 465 days. (The median showed a more moderate increase, from 356 to 374 days.)

The averages are subject to outliers from time to time, which helps explain such a dramatic jump. Nevertheless, it is hard to ignore that there has been a trend towards longer delays in signing the first contracts. Here is an overview of the averages over time.

The second statistic cited by Kaine is not from Bloomberg Law. In fact, I don’t know where it comes from. I traced it back to a mention in an Economic Policy Institute paper from 2009, but it could be even older.

I don’t dispute the number itself; whatever the methodology, it was almost certainly different from the way we process our data. But I thought I’d go ahead and provide a 2022 version anyway.

The result of our databases: 53% of the first 391 contracts took a full year or more to be signed, which practically corresponds to the figure of 52% mentioned in the 2009 article, by the way. But only 6% of contracts lasted three full years or more, not a third as Kaine and others have said.

Last summer, I published another finding that longer delays in first contracts were correlated with lower wage increases for workers. I will update this stat soon.

Bloomberg Law subscribers can access, search and run reports from Bloomberg Law labor databases using our Work Plus: Unionization and Bargaining Data Resource.

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