WASHINGTON, D.C. – More than one-fourth of all union-representation elections in the 2000s have been marred by an illegal firing of a pro-union worker, according to a new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR).

The paper, “Dropping the Ax: Illegal Firings During Union Election Campaigns, 1951-2007,” by John Schmitt and Ben Zipperer, uses a research methodology originally published in the Harvard Law Review and the University of Chicago Law Review and finds a significant increase in the current decade in the share of union-representation elections where workers have been fired for supporting the creation of a union.

“Aggressive actions by employers — often including illegal firings — have significantly undermined the ability of U.S. workers to unionize their workplaces,” said John Schmitt, CEPR senior economist and lead author of the paper. “The financial penalties for illegal actions, including firing pro-union workers, are minimal, so it makes perfect sense for employers to break the law to derail union-organizing efforts.”

The paper finds that pro-union workers were fired in 26 percent of union election campaigns over the period 2001-2007 (most recent available data). The 26 percent rate is up from about 16 percent in the last half of the 1990s. The share of elections in 2001-2007 with an illegal firing was almost as high as the historical peak for such activity –31 percent during the period 1981-1985.