Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Union elections

New National Labor Relations Board rules on union elections predictably have both sides -- business and unions -- arguing about whether they are fair. If we dial back to when President Obama was first elected, the big business fear was that unions would persuade Congress to back card check union organizing -- that companies would be obligated to bargain if a majority of workers signed cards saying they wanted a union. That has effectively died. Unions wanted the card check measure because, they say, many union elections are marred by intense company pressure against the union organizers as companies drag out the election process. Companies said that union elections are the best way to protect workers from relentless union intimidation.

Union elections

New National Labor Relations Board rules on union elections predictably have both sides -- business and unions -- arguing about whether they are fair. If we dial back to when President Obama was first elected, the big business fear was that unions would persuade Congress to back card check union organizing -- that companies would be obligated to bargain if a majority of workers signed cards saying they wanted a union.

That has effectively died. Unions wanted the card check measure because, they say, many union elections are marred by intense company pressure against the union organizers as companies drag out the election process. Companies said that union elections are the best way to protect workers from relentless union intimidation.

The new regulations speed up the election process. I see it as a compromise measure between what unions originally wanted (card check) and what business wanted (maintaining the status quo). 

I'd like to propose my rule:

If a third of the workers file a petition seeking a union election, the following should happen: Once the petition is filed, neither side can say/mail/email anything to the workers on the topic. 

Instead, within two weeks, employees must attend town hall meetings. The meetings would be required by the company and they could be hosted at the company or at a neutral site. I'd prefer a neutral site, but that may not be convenient in the operation of a business and it is important that business continue as close to usual as possible during the process. Each meeting must be attended by union and company officials. At these meetings, both sides deliver their pitches and both distribute any materials they'd like to distribute.

At the close of the meetings, the discussion would go online, only. No in-person talking, by anybody, to anybody.  

The NLRB should develop online chat software that it would license during this period to the union and company. A non-live version would also be available any time to unions, companies and their lawyers who wanted to familiarize themselves with the mechanics ahead of time. 

During the election process, employees would be given access and could ask questions anonymously or engage in chat on the website. The website would be monitored by union and company officials who would sit together and answer questions. The NLRB would occasionally scrutinize the site to make sure that neither group was intimidating anyone and that the answers were legal. (For example, companies can't threaten to shut down their plant if the union wins.) deliver.) 

Another possibility here would be a call-in line, again with a company official and a union official taking every call. (Every call would be a conference call.) The calls would be taped for NLRB monitoring and transcriptions of those conversations would be available online.

After one week of online/telephone discussion, there would be another round of meetings for questions and comments, again attended by both sides. Two days after the second meeting, there should be a vote.

Any issues would be settled after the election, which would not be a problem, since bargaining usually doesn't commence immediately anyway. But there would be an accelerated resolution schedule so that bargaining could follow promptly.

It would be understood by all that the election was a signal of strong intent, either way, so that technicalities would be resolved with that prejudice in mind.   

 

Jane M. Von Bergen Inquirer Staff Writer
About this blog

Jobbing covers the workplace – employment, unemployment, management, unions, legal issues, labor economics, benefits, work-life balance, workforce development, trends and profiles.

Jane M. Von Bergen writes about workplace issues for the Inquirer.

Married to a photographer she met at her college newspaper, Von Bergen has been a reporter since fourth grade, covering education, government, retailing, courts, marketing and business. “I love the specific detail that tells the story,” she says.

Reach Jane M. at jvonbergen@phillynews.com.

Jane M. Von Bergen Inquirer Staff Writer
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