The National Labor Relations Board’s new rules governing union representation elections spring have shortened the time between a petition for an election and a binding vote by nearly 40 percent, according to NLRB statistics released in August.
The new rules implemented in April allow unions to electronically file petitions for a union election and cut the time between the acceptance of the petition and the election from 45 days to 21. Companies are required to notify their employees of the election with posters and, in some cases, by email and provide the union with a full list of the workers eligible to vote, including shifts and locations, or they lose the right to contest the makeup of the bargaining unit.
“It has absolutely made things faster, and our win rate in elections since April has been nearly 100 percent,” said IBEW Director of Professional and Industrial Membership Development Carmella Thomas. “Employers just don’t have as much time to terrify their workers or simply wear them down.”
Employer’s groups like the Chamber of Commerce have condemned the rule, saying it does not leave them enough time to mount a response to what they called “ambush elections.”
Companies also have to declare whether they will fight specific issues raised in the union petition. If the company is silent about any part of a petition, they cannot later contest it in court.
“It means all the issues are on the table early and the companies can’t delay and delay and delay by continually raising new objections at the NLRB or in court,” Thomas said.
An NLRB statement said the rule was “designed to introduce common sense changes that will eliminate barriers workers face when they decide to have a vote on whether to form a union.”
The rule does require more of unions as well. They must notify an employer as soon as a petition is filed. That gives employers several more days to act than in the past, when notification came from the NLRB after they had processed a petition.
While the new rule has improved the likelihood of a successful election, the early notification of employers and the short window before a vote means organizing campaigns have to do more preparation before they file a petition.
“It all has to be in order and locked down before we move for a vote,” Thomas said. “We can’t hope to line up more people in the weeks before the election because there isn’t time. I tell our organizers to prepare their contacts, ‘You aren’t going to be working for the next three weeks; it is going to be wall-to-wall antiunion meetings.’ You have to be ready now.”