December 12, 2014

Jobs With Justice

The Facts on the New NLRB Union Election Rule

Photo from Wikimedia Commons/Geraldshields11

On December 12, 2014, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced its adoption of a final rule to modernize and streamline the process for resolving union representation disputes. The long overdue rule, taking effect on April 14, 2015, will reduce a number of obstacles working people face when trying to form a union to better their workplaces. Read on to learn more about these obstacles and why this commonsense NLRB union election rule was needed to help ensure a fair vote in the workplace.

When workers want to vote on whether to form a union, they should have a fair chance to do so. However in recent decades, when employees decided to hold an election on whether to form a union, they could typically encounter significant uncertainty and obstacles that make the process unfair. After workers petition the NLRB for an election, it could take months and even years before they get to cast a vote. Such delays cause unnecessary conflict and disruption in the workplace.

Modernizing the NLRB election process for forming a union creates a level playing field. Employers and workers alike are entitled to a process that cannot be manipulated to gain unfair advantage and is clear, precise, and efficient. Workers will now  a fair chance to vote their preference.

Removing unfair obstacles and reducing needless litigation will reduce confrontation. Providing a clear, fair election process will improve stability and reduce confrontation in the workplace. The former NLRB election process often created unnecessary, protracted, and drawn-out legal maneuverings that damaged labor relations, hurt productivity, impaired safety, and disrupted commerce, in violation of the National Labor Relations Act’s intent.

These modest changes will reduce needless bureaucracy and delays. The former NLRB election process was bogged down with time-consuming, needless bureaucratic procedures, leaving the election timeline vulnerable to delay and manipulation and wasting government resources. As an investigation by Human Rights Watch concluded, the current system makes it possible to “drag out legal proceedings for years,”1 all at the expense of workers’ rights.

Reducing choke points in the current system will cut back on unnecessary and costly litigation. The former NLRB union election process rewarded unscrupulous employers who used litigation to stall an election date, often pursuing claims that are irrelevant or found to be without merit. Research shows that these delay tactics work: When employers pursue litigation, elections occur an average of 124 days after the petition was filed.2

Every worker is entitled to a fair process to choose whether to form a union. The former NLRB lengthy and protracted election process sacrificed workers’ interests in having an election and, instead, promoted coercive and illegal activity. During organizing campaigns, more than one-third of companies fire pro-union workers.3 The longer the election is delayed, the more likely the NLRB will charge employers with illegal misconduct.

Companies will be free to express their opinion about union representation. From the first day workers are hired, companies have full access and ample opportunity to make their views clear to workers. In fact, nearly half of charges of illegal conduct filed with the NLRB during organizing campaigns involve employer misconduct that took place before workers filed a petition.4

Learn more:

[1] Human Rights Watch, “Unfair Advantage: Workers’ Freedom of Association in the United States Under International Human Rights Standards,” 2000.
[2] Logan, John, and E. Johansson, R. Lamare. “New Data: NLRB Process Fails to Ensure a Fair Vote,” Research Brief, Center for Labor Research and Education, University of California at Berkeley, June 2011.
[3] Bronfenbrenner, Kate. No Holds Barred: The Intensification of Employer Opposition to Organizing, Washington, D.C., Economic Policy Institute and American Rights at Work Education Fund, May 2009.
[4] Bronfenbrenner, Kate and Dorian Warren. “The Empirical Case for Streamlining the Election Process: The Role of Date of Unfair Labor Practice Occurrence,” Working Paper Series 2011.01, Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy, Columbia University, June 2011.

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