On June 21, 2011, the National Labor Relations Board proposed comprehensive rules that would dramatically change the timing of union representation elections.  Currently, it is not uncommon for workers to vote six to eight weeks after a union files a representation petition with the Board for an election.  The proposed rules would shorten that period by: (1) allowing electronic filing of petitions and other documents; (2) setting pre-election hearings to begin seven days after a petition is filed; (3) deferring litigation of eligibility issues in certain circumstances until after the election; (4) eliminating pre-election appeals; and (5) requiring employers to provide electronic lists of eligible voters within two, instead of seven, days.

Most unions are supportive of these changes and believe they will usher in a streamlined approach to prompt elections and increase the probability of a successful outcome.  However, employers fear this shortened election timeline will impair their ability to exercise their free speech and identify the disadvantages of unionization.  The Board's lone Republican, Brian Hayes, perhaps summed up the employer sentiment best in his dissent: "Make no mistake, the principal purpose for this radical manipulation of our election process is to … effectively eviscerate an employer's legitimate opportunity to express its views about collective bargaining." 

The Board will take 75 days to review comments and replies prior to deciding whether to adopt the proposed rules.