On April 14, 2015 the National Labor Relations Board’s new “quickie election” rules took effect, making it much easier for employees to unionize your workplace. While the NLRB claims the new rules will ensure the union election process remains fair and efficient, the practical effect will be an election period shortened from an average of 42 days to as little as 10 days.
The new rules will have major repercussions for non-union employers threatened with organization. The reduced election period will significantly impact employer free-speech rights, as management will have little time to train its supervisors or educate its employees about the downside of union representation. Generally, shorter election time frames allow unions to use surprise to deny the employer the opportunity to mount a thorough election campaign. If unions can strike quickly and get a vote while employees are riled up from union propaganda, and before the employer has a chance to communicate the disadvantages of unionization and the benefits employees currently enjoy, unions are more likely win.
Remember, unions don’t have to disclose that they’re trying to organize an employer or getting employees to sign authorization cards. Frequently, employers only learn about a unionization effort after a petition has been filed. Ten days is hardly enough time to procure counsel and mount an effective campaign in response.
Employers should take immediate action to prepare for a quickie election. At the very least, employers should train their managers and supervisors on best practices for union avoidance and how to identify signs of union organizing, and instruct them with respect to legal rights. Employers can also reduce the risk of unionization by ensuring employees are properly classified and reviewing relevant union avoidance policies, such as off duty access, solicitation, and distribution policies, to ensure preparedness for potential union organizing campaigns.
Finally, employers should consider having a “break the glass” campaign response at the ready that it can implement at a moment’s notice. MSEC’s Labor Relations attorneys are available to help with consultation and training on these issues.