The National Labor Relations Board has made its most aggressive move yet toward making it easier for your employees to unionize.
The NLRB proposes to change the rules governing the time frame and administration of the elections companies hold to decide whether the majority of their employees wish to form a union.
In summary, the changes would give employers less time to make management’s case against organizing, require employers to make worker info (like personal phone numbers and email addresses) available to union officials, and delay the resolution of disputes over which employees are eligible to vote in the secret ballot elections.
In a press release, the NLRB described the move — known officially as a “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” — as action “intended to reduce unnecessary litigation, streamline pre- and post-election procedures, and facilitate the use of electronic communications and document filing.”
As you might imagine, Republicans and business leaders saw things differently. The lone Republican member of the board, Brian Hayes, said in a dissent to the proposed amendments:
“In truth, the ‘problem’ which my colleagues seek to address through these rule revisions is not that the representation election process generally takes too long.
“It is that unions are not winning more elections.”
The nuts and bolts
Here’s a rundown of the high points of the NLRB proposal, courtesy of employment law firm Ogletree Deakins.
Among the proposed changes:
- Currently, case documents (including election petitions) can’t be filed or transmitted electronically; the new rules would permit parties to file electronically
- Both sides would receive, along with a copy of the petition, a description of NLRB representation case procedures, with rights and obligations, as well as a statement of position form to help identify the issues that could be raised at the pre-election hearing
- The NLRB regional director would set a pre-election hearing to begin seven days after a hearing notice is served and a post-election hearing 14 days after the tally of ballots. Currently, those time frames vary by region
- the employer would produce a preliminary voter list, including names, work location, shift, and classification, by the opening of the pre-election hearing. Currently, a list of voters is not provided until after an election has been directed, making it difficult to identify and resolve eligibility issues at the hearing and before the election Additionally, the final voter list available to all parties contains only names and home addresses. However, the proposed amendments would make phone numbers and email addresses available on the final voter list
- Currently, representation case procedures are described in three different parts of the regulations. Under the proposed amendments, they would be consolidated into a single part of the regulations.
According to attorneys at the law firm Jackson Lewis, approximately 95 percent of all representation elections are held in 56 days. The new procedures, if adopted, could shave off approximately 30 days.
Under the changes, it appears elections could be held in slightly over three weeks (or possibly less) from the filing of a petition.
Move was in the cards
Can’t say we didn’t see this coming. Every since the Democrat-controlled Congress couldn’t get its act together on the pro-union Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), business leaders have been expecting the Obama administration’s labor board to achieve through rulemaking what the Dems couldn’t get done legislatively.
You do have a chance to make your feelings about the proposal known to NLRB members.
Comments, which should be received with 60 days, may be submitted electronically at http://www.regulations.gov/ or via mail. The NLRB is also expected to hold public hearings July 18 and 19 in Washington, D.C.