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Union-Organizing Efforts

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The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) applies strict rules of conduct to employers during union-organizing campaigns. But whether you choose to accept the union or resist it, you can still exercise your rights effectively. Or, if a union has already won a representation election in your organization, you need to know how to prevent the union from encroaching on your management rights.

Scope of unions today

Union membership has been on a steady decline since the 1950s. The overall percentage of U.S. workers who are members of a union was 11.1% in 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That contrasts to 20.1% in 1983 and is the lowest level since 1935, when the National Labor Relations Act was enacted.

The union membership rate runs much higher for public-sector workers (35.7% in 2014) than in the private sector (6.6%). Teachers, other educators, police officers and firefighters had the highest unionization rate, at 35.3%. Sales and related occupations (3.1%) and farming, fishing and forestry (2.5%) had the lowest rates.

Look for labor to continue targeting transportation, construction, manufacturing and service businesses. Plus, unions will push the NLRB to support a “single site” organizing rule, which gives unions an advantage in organizing multiple locations of small businesses.

Prepare for ‘ambush’ elections

In December 2014, the NLRB issued a controversial rule that it says will “streamline” union elections. But critics say the result will be “ambush elections” in which voting happens so quickly that employers stand little chance of persuading employees to reject union representation.

The new final rule, effective April 14, 2015, covers elections that certify a union to represent workers. Under previous rules, an automatic one-month delay followed after the NLRB received a petition for a union election. The new rule eliminates the one-month pause, clearing the way for so-called “ambush” or “quickie” elections, which usually come within days.

Prior to this ruling, the standard time period for elections was 42 days. Now, most elections will likely be held within 10 to 21 days, experts say. Also, employers will have to provide more contact info to unions, including employees’ personal phone numbers and email addresses.

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