Another Voice: New NLRB Rules Mean Businesses Must be Prepared for Fast Elections
Friday, April 10, 2015
THE BUFFALO NEWS
BY: BENJAMIN MUDRICK
The dynamics of labor relations will see a dramatic shift Tuesday, when new union election rules from the National Labor Relations Board take effect. The changes have not come about without heated discussion, including a joint resolution of disapproval from Congress, two pending lawsuits and objections from many employers and business groups.
President Obama, in a memorandum supporting his veto of the congressional resolution, called the new rules “modest but overdue reforms to simplify and streamline private sector union elections.” House Speaker John Boehner, however, denounced the new rules as “an assault on the rights and privacy protections of American workers.”
Regardless of the politics, one thing is clear: Employers need to be prepared for a new world of union organizing and labor relations moving forward. Commonly referred to as “quickie election” rules, the NLRB’s new rules significantly shorten the period between the date an employer receives an election petition from a union and the actual election date when bargaining unit employees vote on union representation.
Currently, this campaign period lasts an average of 38 days, but, under the new rules, an election could be conducted in as few as 13 days after the employer’s receipt of the petition, and even as few as 10 in certain circumstances. It is widely accepted that the longer a union election campaign lasts, the more likely it becomes that an employer will win. Employers chalk this up to the fact that they have more time to educate their employees about the realities of unionization; unions contend that this “education” sometimes borders on harassment or coercion.
In addition to a shorter election period, the new rules also, among other things:
•Require employers to provide more detailed, personal information about employees to the union so that the union can more easily contact them during the election campaign.
•Limit the issues or objections that parties can raise during the pre-election hearing.
•Restrict the parties’ ability to challenge NLRB determination and election results.
Simply put, these rules, along with other recent significant policy shifts by the NLRB, are making it easier for employees to organize and harder for employers to curtail such efforts. Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” For employers, failing to prepare for a union organizing campaign or election now could lead to an election loss and a unionized workforce sooner than they might think.
Benjamin Mudrick is an associate at the Buffalo law firm of Harter Secrest & Emery, and a member of the firm’s Labor & Employment practice group.