Labor unions received an early Christmas present on November 30 when the National Labor Relations Board voted 2-1 to move forward with rules that will significantly shorten the time between the filing of a union representation petition and the union election. The proposed rules will now be rapidly converted into final rules, which will be voted on before the expiration of Board member Craig Becker's term later this month. The rules can be expected to go into effect in the first quarter of 2012 unless blocked by legislation or a court challenge.
What do these new rules mean for employers and employees who might prefer to remain union-free? In a nutshell, they mean that those opposing unionization will have far less time to get their message out to employees.
Under the current rules, there are usually about 42 days (six weeks) between the filing of the union petition and the election. Under the new rules, the time will likely be cut to approximately 21 days, and possibly as short as 14 days, depending on the circumstances. Such quick elections are commonly referred to as "ambush" elections for good reason. While it is certainly possible for employers to win union elections with only two or three weeks to campaign—Canadian companies do so regularly under even shorter time constraints—they will have to be prepared to act quickly and think through in advance how they will get their message across practically and effectively.
If you have questions concerning these new rules and their potential impact on your organization, please contact one of our labor and employment attorneys.