This week, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) released proposed rules intended to "speed up" the union election process. Background Generally, quicker elections favor unions. Unions often are able to campaign in secret for months before an employer is even aware that a unionizing effort is underway. Thus, once an election petition is filed, the union has a head start and the employer is left playing catch-up. Not too surprisingly, unions are applauding the new rules while businesses are not. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called the rules a "common-sense approach." The U.S. Chamber of Commerce dubbed them a "blatant attempt to give unions the upper hand." The Changes The following is a handy summary prepared by the fine folks at McGuire Woods outlining what the new rules would do: permit electronic filing and transmission of election petitions, notices and voter lists; require a pre-election hearing to be held 7 days after a hearing notice is served, and a post-election hearing 14 days after ballots are counted; require production of a preliminary voter list by the opening of the pre-election hearing as opposed to the current requirement to produce a voter list after an election is directed; eliminate pre-election Board review of the Regional Director's pre-election rulings and instead consolidating all election challenges into a post-election review process; defer litigation of voter eligibility issues involving less than 20% of the bargaining unit until after an election, even if such eligibility issues might render the election unnecessary or be outcome-determinative; vest the Board with discretionary authority to review post-election challenges or disputes, whereas the Board is currently required to review post-election disputes; require the production of final voter lists in 2 days instead of 7 days; and require the final voter list to include voters' phone numbers and e-mail addresses, when available. What Happens Next? A public hearing will be held July 18. Comments from the public will be accepted through August 22. To review the regulations and submit comments, click here. Comments may also be mailed to: Lester Heltzer, Executive Secretary National Labor Relations Board 1099 14th Street NW Washington, DC 20570 The Bottom Line Despite the public hearing and comment period, most expect the rules to be adopted pretty much as is. As McGuire Woods notes, "Wise employers will develop ongoing educational programs and begin them before rather than after a union election petition." In short, it's more important than ever to treat your employees with dignity and respect.
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