This past December, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued its Final Rule implementing an accelerated process for conducting union representation elections—the “Quickie Election” Rule. The new regulations are to go into effect on April 14, 2015. Various trade groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have already filed legal challenges seeking to invalidate the new regulations. At this time, however, it’s not clear how those challenges will turn out.
What is clear is that if the new regulations go into effect they will dramatically speed up the union election process to the benefit of organized labor. The average time between the filing of a union election petition and the election is currently 38 days. These regulations would reduce that time to about 25 days . Business groups have roundly criticized the “Quickie Election” Rule as politically motivated and designed to deprive employers of adequate time to effectively respond to union campaigns.
Whether the new regulations ultimately go into effect or not, non-unionized employers who want to remain non-union need to be proactive in the event they are targeted. Advance planning—and not merely reacting—is critical to any successful union avoidance effort.
So what can employers do to be ready? Here are a few tips that should be helpful:
- Foster a culture in which employees are treated with dignity and respect. Train your managers and first-line supervisors to be fair and consistent in handling employee issues. Many union campaigns result from “fairness” issues and can be avoided by adhering to sound human relations practices.
- Listen to your employees’ concerns. Don’t ignore workplace problems when they arise. If you address workplace concerns effectively, your employees will be less inclined to think they “need” a union.
- Give your employees an easy, but structured, way to voice complaints, such as a written complaint policy. If someone files a complaint, make sure you address it.
- Review your employment policies and make sure they comply with current law. The NLRB has recently issued a number of important cases addressing employer policies on email use, employee discipline, social media, property access, confidentiality of information, and many others topics. If your policies are not consistent with current NLRB rules, they could lead to unfair labor practices charges and allegations of tainted elections. Unions who lose elections are regularly challenging employer policies as invalid to get the election results overturned.
- Consider implementing a “non-solicitation” policy before the union becomes an issue. Remember that any such policy must not discriminate against union activity or otherwise be contrary to NLRB rules.
- Be prepared for the moment when the union organizing campaign begins. If the “Quickie Election” Rule goes into effect, you will have less time to respond and educate your employees. Think proactively and in advance.
- Don’t ignore union activity or rumors of union activity. Train your managers and supervisors to detect and respond appropriately to unionization efforts. Make sure they know not to overreact. Improper activity at the start of a union campaign can result in unfair labor practice charges and give the union more ammunition in its effort to organize.
- Have a plan to mobilize in the event union activity is detected. Know how to get the help you need, including legal assistance.
- Know what you can’t do or say during a union campaign. Have your supervisors trained to observe the “TIPS” rule:
- Do not Threaten.
- Do not Interrogate.
- Do not Promise.
- Do not Spy.
- Know what you can—and should—say to your employees during a union campaign. Make sure your employees understand that you don’t want a union. Educate your employees about why they don’t need a union, but stick to the facts.
Being prepared is essential to defeating a union organizing effort and proactive steps will be even more critical if and when the “Quickie Election” Rule goes into effect.