Unionization Process

Editor's Note: Preventing unionization.

Melissa BoyceOverview: The process of forming a union begins when union organizers solicit authorization cards within a targeted group of employees acceptable to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Authorization cards, when signed, allow the union to represent the signer in dealing with the employer on issues concerning wages, benefits, hours, and working conditions. Union representatives and employees who support the union will try to convince employees to sign authorization cards.

While the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) protects the rights of employees to organize, form, join and assist labor organizations, it also protects the rights of employers to express views, arguments or opinions concerning unions, if such expression contains no threat of reprisal or force or promise of benefit. Therefore, employers aware of union organizing that wish to prevent the unionization should immediately advise employees of the reasons why a union is not in their best interest and should communicate this information in compliance with the complex rules surrounding employer speech during a union representation campaign.

Employers should also think about ways to prevent unions from organizing in the first place - one important step is having a union avoidance policy that is communicated to all employees at the time of hire. Employers should also recognize the signs of union formation, such as an unusual group of employees meeting before and after work or the discovery of union cards. Having properly trained supervisors that support senior management's initiatives and properly communicating with employees is also critical - when an employee feels a sense of unity, teamwork and appreciation/recognition they will likely avoid union organization.

Once a union gets signed cards from at least 30% of the employees in its targeted group, it can file a petition for representation with the NLRB - or, if a union gets more than 50% of the employees to sign authorization cards, it may present the employer with a demand for recognition of the union - however, most employers are not willing to concede. Between the filing of a petition and the date of a secret ballot election, employer representatives typically try and convince employees to vote against unionization.

Once election day arrives, if more than 50% of the voting employees vote for union representation, the union wins the election. However, if 50% or more of the voting employees vote against union representation, the union loses the election and the group of eligible voters remains union-free.

Trends: Recent NLRB cases seem to indicate that employers who allow employees to use social networking sites during work hours will not be able to prohibit those same employees from sending pro-union messages via the same social networking sites while working. Similarly, if the employer allows social networking on employer property and equipment during non-working time, it likely will not be permitted to prohibit messages supporting the union on the same sites at the same times. There are also new NLRB cases protecting employees' rights to use social networking sites for mutual aid or protection when the employees are not working and are not using employer property. Employees will be similarly protected when using social networking sites to support union organizing efforts while not working and not using employer property.

Author: Melissa Boyce, JD, Legal Editor

Latest items in Unionization Process

  • NLRB Form 4812 - Description of Representation Case Procedures in Certification and Decertification Cases

    Type:
    Policies and Documents

    As mandated by the National Labor Relations Board, a petitioner is required to serve this form on all parties named in a petition.

  • NLRB Form 502 (AC) - Amendment of Certification Petition

    Type:
    Policies and Documents

    As mandated by the National Labor Relations Board, an employer, labor organization or a group of employees seeking an amendment of a previous NLRB certification must file this petition.

  • NLRB Form 502 (RC) - Certification of Representative Petition

    Type:
    Policies and Documents

    As mandated by the National Labor Relations Board, a labor organization or a group of employees asserting that a substantial number of employees wish to be represented for purposes of collective bargaining and that it seeks to be certified as representative of the employees must file this petition.

  • NLRB Form 505 - Statement of Position

    Type:
    Policies and Documents

    As mandated by the National Labor Relations Board, a party named in the Notice of Hearing must complete and file this form.

  • NLRB Form 5547 - Description of Election and Post-Election Representation Case Procedures

    Type:
    Policies and Documents

    As mandated by the National Labor Relations Board, parties named in the peititon must be provided this form.

  • NLRB Form 5544 - Certificate of Service of Petition

    Type:
    Policies and Documents

    As mandated by the National Labor Relations Board, a petitioner seeking to certify that the petition, a Statement of Position form and a Description of Procedures were served on all parties must complete this form.

  • NLRB Form 5545 - Certificate of Service of Voter List

    Type:
    Policies and Documents

    As mandated by the National Labor Relations Board, an employer to certify that the voter list was served on the petitioner, union and/or intervenor must complete this form.

  • NLRB Form 5546 - Request to Block Petition

    Type:
    Policies and Documents

    As mandated by the National Labor Relations Board, a party to a representation proceeding seeking to file an unfair labor practice charge and block a petition must file this form.

  • Union Organization and Labor Relations

    Type:
    Employment Law Manual

    This section helps HR professionals understand how a union is formed, including the secret ballot election process conducted by the National Labor Relations Board; strategies for employers for preventing and/or handling a union organizing campaign in the workplace; and discusses "Right to Work" states and union decertifications.

  • Podcast Features New NLRB 'Quick' Election Rules

    Date:
    08 May 2015
    Type:
    Editor's Choice

    The National Labor Relations Board's new election rules took effect April 14, and are already having a big impact on employers. These changes, which shorten the union election process, are the focus of a new podcast with Los Angeles employment attorney Mark Theodore of Proskauer Rose.