On December 12, 2014, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) issued its much anticipated rule changes for union elections. The rules become effective on April 14, 2015.  The new rules set forth an “accelerated election” process that gives employers much less time to communicate to their views on union representation to their employees. The NLRB has published a chart comparing the current election rules with the new election rules.  Some of the highlights of the new fast track process include:

  1. Electronic filing and transmission of election petitions and other documents.
  2. Elections will generally  be held within 20 days of the filing of the petition.
  3. The NLRB will schedule pre-election hearings within eight days after a Notice of Hearing is filed.
  4. Pre-election hearings will generally be limited to whether it is appropriate to conduct an election, and not voter eligibility or inclusion issues.
  5. After a petition has been filed, employers will be required to post an initial “NLRB Notice of Election” containing generic information about the petition and the parties’ rights and obligations.
  6. Employers will also have to fill out and submit a “Statement of Position” within seven days of receipt of the election petition that includes a list of prospective voters, their job classifications, shifts and work locations.
  7. If the employer fails to raise a particular election issue in this “Statement of Position,” it may not present evidence on the issue at the representation hearing.
  8. Individual voter eligibility issues will generally not be heard until after the election.
  9. The list of all eligible bargaining unit employees (“Excelsior list”) must be electronically filed within two (2) business days after a Direction of Election has been issued, and must include employees’ home addresses, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses.
  10. Post-election hearings will be set 14 days after the filing of objections.

Bottom line: once an election petition is filed, employers will have no time to develop an effective response strategy.  Given that the new rules do not take effect for another couple months, employers should take the opportunity now to put proactive plans in place before an election petition is filed. A solid plan should include:

  • Identifying the management team responsible for responding to a union organizing attempt
  • Developing an employee communications program to discourage employees from signing union authorization cards
  • Conducting a union organizing vulnerability analysis
  • Auditing labor relations issues, relevant company policies and human resources practices and procedures
  • Training managers and supervisors to identify the signs of potential union organizing activity, and how to lawfully respond to them
  • Developing an employee communications program in the event of an NLRB scheduled election
  • Conducting supervisor training on how to effectively manage a union-free workforce