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NLRB Proposes Rules To Speed Up Unionization

June 21, 2011

By Adam S. Collier

LABOR LAW UPDATE

On June 21, 2011, a divided National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) proposed new rules to speed up unionization elections. The NLRB, which oversees labor relations laws governing most private sector employers, stated that the purpose of the proposed rules is “to fix flaws in the Board’s current procedures that build in unnecessary delays, allow wasteful litigation, and fail to take advantage of modern communication technologies.”

One of the more important proposed changes relates to voter eligibility. Specifically, the NLRB seeks to defer litigation over whether certain employees are eligible to vote until after the election. Currently, voter eligibility issues are litigated and decided prior to the election.

Among other things, the proposed rules also would:
 
  1. Allow for electronic filing of election petitions and other documents;
  2. Standardize timeframes for parties to resolve or litigate issues before and after elections;
  3. Require employers to provide a final voter list in electronic form soon after the scheduling of an election, including employees’ telephone numbers and email addresses when available (currently employees only are required to provide employees’ addresses); and
  4. Make Board review of post-election decisions discretionary rather than mandatory.

These changes, which would shorten the period from petition to vote, could significantly harm employers. The proposed rules would give employers less time to inform employees about the disadvantages of unionizing and to ensure that employees have a chance to hear both sides of the story before the election.

Board Member Brian Hayes dissented from the Board’s proposed rules. Among other things, he noted that the proposed rules would “provide a more expeditious pre-election process and a more limited postelection process that tilts heavily against employers’ rights to engage in legitimate free speech and to petition the government for redress.”

The NLRB has scheduled a public hearing over the proposed rules on July 18, 2011, and will be accepting public comments over the next 60 days. Public comments may be submitted electronically to www.regulations.gov or by mail to Lester A. Heltzer, Executive Secretary, NLRB, 1099 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20570.

Although the proposed rules have no immediate effect on employers, they present a good opportunity for employers to review existing policies, wage rates, benefits and other issues, and analyze their vulnerability to union organizing campaigns. Employers also should consider auditing their solicitation and distribution policies, and their ability to immediately respond to any union organizing efforts.

Please feel welcome to contact Bullard Law for assistance with these projects. Please also feel free to contact Bullard Law contact us with any questions or concerns about any other employment, labor relations, and employee benefits issues. 
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