NLRB Moves Closer to ‘Quickie’ Union Elections

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DEC. 21 UPDATE to post below: The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) voted 2-1 on Dec. 21 to approve procedural changes that could dramatically shorten the union election process in U.S. workplaces. Among other things, these “quickie election” rules require employers to postpone legal challenges until after the workers vote. The quicker election process makes it more difficult for employers to communicate with employees before the vote. The rules are scheduled to take effect on April 30, but a business-backed lawsuit is challenging the changes. Read more details at www.theHRSpecialist.com/unionvote.

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Dec. 16 post: The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently moved one step closer to changes that would give employers much less time to react to union organizing efforts … and make it easier for organizers to gain a toehold in your workplace.

The NLRB is racing to finalize those new election rules—which opponents call “quickie” or “ambush” elections—before an end-of-December deadline. Why the rush? The currently three-member NLRB will likely lose its quorum status with the Jan. 1 term expiration of Craig Becker, a pro-union member of the board.

The NLRB originally proposed these changes in June. It then voted Nov. 30 to cut out a few of the more controversial elements of the proposal. But the board pushed forward on the main revision, which would shorten the time from the filing of the election petition until the actual election is held.

It’s estimated that the time between an organizing petition and a full union election—currently averaging about 38 days—could be cut in half if this NLRB proposal is finalized.

These changes follow more than 65,000 written comments to the NLRB about the rule change, plus a two-day hearing in July. Employers now await the final word from the NLRB about whether this rule will officially take effect—and when.

Advice: If these NLRB rules become final this month, unions will feel emboldened to start organizing drives in previously union-free workplaces. That’s why it’s important to take steps now to keep your organization union free. Some possible action steps:

Take a hard look at employee satisfaction levels. Disgruntled employees and festering workplace issues are fertile ground for union organizers. Conduct an objective workplace audit, focusing on employees’ views of management’s responsiveness, compensation levels and workplace health and safety.

Communicate with employees about unions. Periodically educate employees in lawful messages about the good features of working for your organization, and the disadvantages of belonging to a union (dues, assessments, possibility of strikes, etc.)

Review anti-union policies. Certain employer policies can help prevent unionization. To be effective, however, policies must be in place before any organizing activity. Policies to review: visitors at work, solicitation of fellow employees (orally or via email), distribution of literature and employee dispute and problem-solving options.

Note: Learn additional practical (and legal) union-avoidance steps at LEAP 2012, our Labor & Employment Law Advanced Practices Symposium, March 21-23, 2012 in Las Vegas. The conference will include sessions on "The New NLRB," a comprehensive update on all the new mandates coming from the NLRB, plus our 2-hour post-conference workshop, "Keeping Unions at Bay." Learn more at www.LEAP-2012.com.

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