On December12, 2014, the National Labor Relations Board announced that effective April 14, 2015, it would be implementing new rules and procedures governing representative elections. These were first proposed in 2011 and have been referred to as the “Quickie” or “Ambush” rules, designed to accelerate the election process from petition to vote. Initially these were blocked by litigation based on the NLRB not having a proper quorum when they were propagated. These rules are now being issued with a full board and consist of among other things:
- Permitting electronic filing of the petition.
- Limitations on pre-election hearing subject matters
- Requiring pre-election hearings to be conducted within eight days of the petition and position statements filed one day before the pre-election hearing.
- Elimination of the 25 day period between election order and the actual election.
- Requiring employers to provide unions with lists of eligible workers including personal e-mail addresses and telephone numbers.
The effect of these new rules is expected to reduce the time between filing a petition to an election from over 44 days to around 21. In so doing, they severely limit the ability of an employer to provide employees with more accurate information regarding their union representation decision. Unions are hoping that this will result in more victories and reverse the trend in their declining membership.
The Chamber of Commerce who brought the original 2011 legal challenge to these rules has again filed a lawsuit to stop the NLRB from implementing these regulations and procedures. They have been joined by several other prominent organizations including the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Retail Federation and the Society of Human Resource Management. However, the probability of success is not great. Republicans in Congress have also indicated a willingness to initiate legislation but face the reality of a Presidential veto. I believe the playing field has changed and we need to reexamine our union avoidance game plan.
What should you and your organization be doing? First and foremost is to create a work environment that provides employees with little motivation to need a union, i.e. a labor strategy built on preparation. I would suggest it include:
- Employee education on the organizations position on unions.
- Ensure your communication processes to and from employees are working effectively.
- Supervisory training on basic management, but also including how to recognize signs of union activity. The sooner an organization responds to union propaganda, the less probability that employees will select that alternative.
- Regular employee surveys and vulnerability assessments of locations and work groups with appropriate action plans, especially for “at risk” situations.
- Development of campaign templates that can be quickly tailored given the tightened time constraints of the new regulations (Card Speeches, 24 Hour Speeches, etc.)
- Identification and training of management response teams on NLRB communication, as well as their roles and responsibilities during a campaign.
As Ben Franklin stated: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.