The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) recently crusaded to organize a 90-person adjunct bargaining unit at a college in California. The College’s “Foundations Coordinator” – an obvious supervisor – openly campaigned in favor of the union. Typically, supervisory pro-union involvement taints an election because of the possibility that employees will feel coerced into voting for the union.

The union won the election by a narrow margin of 35-32. The National Labor Relations Board found that the Coordinator’s conduct was largely non-coercive because of his status as a low-level supervisor. The Board noted that the Coordinator’s conduct was directed mostly at employees who were not under his direct control. So now the Board is splitting hairs to allow supervisors to campaign in favor of a union so long as the supervisor is not too high up the chain of command and the campaigning is not only directed at his or her direct reports. This is a significant change to union organizing law.

Had this case involved an anti-union supervisor campaigning against a union, the Board’s ruling would likely have looked very different. The Board probably would not have considered factors such as the supervisor being a low-level supervisor or directing his conduct towards those not under his direct control. This case, again, demonstrates the lopsided nature of the Board that companies are up against.