NLRB “Ambush Election" Changes

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regulates the process by which a union can try to organize workers and force an employer to negotiate with the union. On April 15, the NLRB amended its union election and dispute processes. The board will immediately begin processing petitions for recognition under these “quickie” or “ambush” rules, so called because they greatly compress the time between a union’s filing of a petition and the election itself.

New, Shortened Timelines for Employers

An election will now be held between 17-21 days after a petition is filed (compared to 38-42 days under the old rules). This leaves little time for an employer to react and implement a campaign telling employees the whole story: why remaining union-free is a good choice.

The pre-election procedures time has been also reduced from 14 days to 7. An employer’s detailed statement of position now must be filed by Noon on the day before the hearing. This allows only six days from the petition for an employer to prepare and file its objections, along with a preliminary list of employees eligible to vote, including names, work locations, shifts and job classifications of the proposed bargaining unit. This early disclosure of employee information could be misused by the union — and presents a dangerous trap for an unprepared company. If an employer’s objections are not timely filed within the six-day window, they are waived.

Employers Have Very Little Time to Communicate With Employees About a Union Election

These new rules greatly diminish an employer's ability to respond to and communicate with its own employees about whether a union will represent certain employees. This election process is so fast that employers cannot wait until a petition is filed to plan a course of action, develop campaign strategies and materials and, most importantly, train supervisors.

Best Practice for the Company

In order to give your company the best chance at defeating a union organization attempt, the following steps should be taken before receiving a petition or learning of organizing activity:

  • Review your current communication processes to ensure that there are effective channels of communication between management and employees.
  • Identify and train a management response team to handle union organizing issues.
  • Review your handbooks and policies to ensure NLRB compliance.
  • Train supervisors to identify and then respond appropriately to union activity.

Consultation with an experienced labor attorney early in the process is an important step in maintaining union-free status.