Making up for lost time, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has moved aggressively to aid the labor movement and pave the way for more successful organizing.
First, it revised a prior decision by a more conservative board and ruled that, with very limited exceptions, employees could not be prohibited from engaging in and communicating about union organizing via their employer’s email during their non-working time.
Obviously, the internal use of emails allows employees to communicate and debate much more efficiently and more readily than ever before. And it will be virtually impossible for many employers to monitor and control access to these emails during working time – leading inevitably to wasted time and inefficiency. Prohibitions on solicitation or distribution during working time in working areas become ineffective with respect to email.
Employers may restrict such use if they can prove that special circumstances require a complete ban of non-work related emails because of overriding business requirements related to productivity or discipline, but that ban is invalid on its face if any non-work related emails are permitted. Now would probably be a good time to review your company’s email policies.
And that’s not all! On April 14, 2015 new rules are scheduled to go into effect designed to:
1.Assist and speedup union organizing. Important changes include that the Board will schedule elections more quickly after a Petition is filed, and that most unit questions will be resolved after the vote, rather than before; 2.Shorten campaigns which, with intensive email organizing efforts, will severely limit management’s goals to fully inform employees and to respond to exaggerated or misleading union campaign propaganda, and 3.Require companies to provide the union that files a Petition with a roster of employees prior to the pre-election hearing and the email addresses of employees in the proposed unit along with mailing addresses shortly after the hearing.
Employers will certainly be greatly challenged in their desire to maintain a non-union environment because of what is likely to be more aggressive, effective, and efficient campaigning. The unions have been waiting for this kind of assistance to their organizing effort for years. Now they will prepare to aggressively move and reassert themselves into the US economy.
Employers were often able to successfully resist organization attempts by running their businesses intelligently and reacting when the union came around. That strategy is doomed. Employers should use the first quarter of 2015 to take steps to begin the process of identifying areas of vulnerability and educating supervisors and employees about unions and union campaigns. That will provide an opportunity to take the offensive and to defeat an aggressive union campaign under the new rules.
PMP can conduct a vulnerability review and identify where policies and procedures need to be put into place to assist you and your managers to identify how and when a union is trying to organize your workforce and how these attempts can be legally dealt with. Once the cards are signed – it’s probably too late!
Portnoy, Messinger, Pearl & Associates, Inc. (PMP) has over 50 years of experience in dealing with unions and assisting companies to stay union-free. The coming year will be more challenging than ever for companies to remain union-free. Start the process now!