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Changes to labor unionization policy will have significant effect on employers.

Byline: Juliana Kenny

April 14, 2015 will prove to be a controversial day in the United States as a result of the implementation of the National Labor Relations Board's (NLRB) "Final Rule" measure which will make it easier for unions to organize unrepresented employees through "quickie elections," providing President Obama does go through with his planned veto of the House of Representatives' block of the proposal.

In December, the NLRB published its measure that will create a shorter time period between a union's filing of a representation petition and the holding of an election. This rule has big implications for employers. Michael Lotito, co-chair of Littler's Workplace Policy Institute says that, for many employers, unionization has "declined so precipitously from the high-water mark" of and around the 1950's. Therefore, employers do not put the same emphasis on being prepared for unionization as they once did. Legal teams are less prepared; it is not top-of-mind anymore. The NLRB's latest change to policy will force a change in the way employers think about unionization.


Further reading: Labor & Employment Digest: March 2015 NLRB rules T-Mobile engaged in unfair labor policies Compliance concerns for 2015 and beyond, Part 1: Social media


One of the provisions of the new policy, which is one of the biggest changes to union election policy in the U.S. since 1959 according to Lotito, is the shortening of the number of days between filing and election. The changes in the procedures used to process representation petitions may lead to elections being held in as few as 13 days from the filing of the petition which will create difficulties for employers who are not prepared for swift organizational attacks. Among a host of other changes, the NLRB's proposal was voted against by the Republican-led House in Congress, and Obama is highly expected to veto that block.

In an interview with InsideCounsel, Lotito said that one of the bigger questions is whether or not unions will take advantage of this change in policy set to go in motion -- providing Obama does veto the House's resolution of disapproval -- on April 14. Many unions have not historically been adept at traditional organizing. They have been more focused on corporate campaigns. Given that April 15 is the "day of action" regarding labor unions targeting fast food chains and other corporations, it is possible that there will be a spike in filings on that day not just because of its significance, but because of the newly-enacted ruling from the NLRB.

So, obviously, employers need to be more alert in regards to having adequate labor counsel and being prepared for these pending changes to unionization policy. Lotito said: "Strategically, employers need to put labor relations back on the agenda as something that is worthy of attention."

As many do, employers deal with what is the "distraction of the day", and sometimes refrain from looking ahead to future challenges. But this significant change to labor policy should be considered front-and-center as it will be a "fundamental business challenge" as of April 14, says Lotito. Employers should train supervisors to deal with issues regarding organization-based attacks, and they should treat the changes as if they have a plan just like any other required plan in the face of an emergency.

This is naturally a historic moment for labor unions in the U.S., a challenging one for employers, and a fraught one for political leaders as the House pits itself against the President. The forthcoming weeks will be ones to watch for Obama's veto of the House's disapproval and for the possible spike in filings on and after Tax Day.
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Publication:Inside Counsel Breaking News
Date:Mar 26, 2015
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