Monday, November 23, 2015

One early unexpected result from the NLRB’s ambush election rules

The first six months of the NLRB’s ambush election rules have resulted in one expected result and one unexpected result.

On the expected front, the median time from the filing of a representation petition to the holding of an election has dropped nearly 40 percent, from 38 days to 23 days.

What is the unexpected result?

Despite this significant shorting of the window for employers to mount meaningful campaigns to explain to their employees the negatives of unionization, the union win-rate in these elections has only increased 1.6 percent, from 64 percent to 65 percent.

Graphic c/o

What does this mean for employers? Either—

  1. The management-side hullaballoo that followed on the heels of the NLRB’s new rules are much ado about nothing.
  2. Six months is too small of a sample size to reach any meaningful conclusions.
  3. In the wake of the new rules, employers have embraced a proactive anti-union stance that has placed them in a position of better preparedness after their employees file a petition.
  4. Most employees’ opinions on labor unions are already developed and well entrenched, and most will vote the same whether the election is held one day, one month, or one year after the petition’s filing.

I believe that number 4 is probably the closest to the truth. Much like a political election, in a union election most employees’ minds are made up before the campaign even starts spinning. Like a political election in which most self-identify as a Democrat or a Republican and vote accordingly, in a union election most employees are pre-disposed to be either pro-union or anti-union, and nothing the other side says will sway that entrenched opinion. Instead, union campaigns, like their political brethren, are a battle for the small percentage of the undecided. In a close election, they will determine the outcome.

Thus, even though the opinions of most employees are already decided before the union ever files a petition, a proactive and targeted pro-management message is still important if a non-union employer wants to remain non-union. Employers ignore the undecided voters at their peril.

So, what steps can an employer take to sway those key undecided votes? I advocate for the TEAM approach to union avoidance

     Train supervisors
     Educate employees
     Affirm the open door
     Modernize policies

which you can read more about here.

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