The NLRB has been responsible for overseeing union representative elections and investigating unfair labor practice (ULP) charges for over 70 years. During this time the board has typically stayed away from controversy. Labor unions believe that regulators are to blame for their declining numbers by allowing employees an extended period of time prior to casting their votes regarding union representation. Last year the NLRB passed rules reducing the time period between representation petition and election — reducing this period by almost half. This rule is scheduled to take effect on April 30th.
The new rule does not alter the percentage of union membership that is necessary to request representation but hopes to make the voting possibly more emotional by having the employees vote when emotions are high. The new rule will most likely increase employee disenchantment and expand union activities into areas that were previously not well represented. Time is running short on employers having a solid employee relations program. Employers must aggressively review their communications programs or if no program exists, create one immediately. This will more than likely require employers to turn to outside professionals to assist them in this program development. Having strong legal support as well as a public relations/communications firm is critical. Communications should flow effortlessly throughout an enterprise — both from management to staff and from staff to management. Be sure to take advantage of all mediums available, to include social and electronic media and video communication. Employers must constantly review their policies and procedures.
This NLRB ruling, as well as others, are under scrutiny and are being challenged in several circuit courts. Let’s hope that the judicial system recognizes the impact of these rulings and overturns them. If not, employers are will be facing severe hurdles regarding union representation issues and communications with their employees.