In June 2011, the National Labor Relations Board issued a notice of proposed rule-making to amend the rules governing elections to determine whether a group of employees will become represented by a labor union. Among other things, the new rules would drastically shorten the time period for employers to respond to a union’s petition for election with information to counter the union’s propaganda and help employees make an informed decision. Under rules in place for decades, employers typically have six weeks or more to “campaign” in opposition to the union. Under the proposed new rules, that response time would be reduced to as little as seven days.

The Board held a public hearing on the proposed rules in July, and the period for public comment and response ended in September. Issuance of a final rule is expected before the end of the year. While unions await the new rules with eager anticipation, employers should take steps now to prepare themselves for “snap” elections. Among other things, employers should:

  • Adopt and enforce lawful and appropriate policies regarding third-party solicitations, employee solicitations, distribution of literature, and off-duty employees;
  • Implement and consistently follow a practice of regular “feedback sesions” with employees, to learn what issues most concern them, so that such a practice may lawfully continue during a union organizing campaign;
  • Educate supervisors and managers about the union organizing process, including how it works, the warning signs to spot, and the strict and often confusing list of “do’s” and “don’ts” during a unionizing campaign.