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IEC Opposes National Labor Relations Board Ruling

Posted in: Legislative Updates

This week, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a final rule and made another ruling that would impact businesses in all sectors.

Ambush Elections
The NLRB re-issued its final rule on ambush elections this week. The final rule largely mirrors a February 2014 proposal opposed by IEC and the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (CDW).

Under current law, when a union wants to organize a workplace, it will collect signatures from workers until it has enough to trigger an election — at which point it will petition the NLRB to conduct said election. Once a petition is filed, the election takes place in a median of 38 days. During this time, both sides have a chance to communicate with workers about the issue of union representation.

To gain an unfair--and what IEC believes to be an illegal--advantage, unions encouraged the NLRB to introduce the ambush election rule, the intent of which was to reduce the time for an employer to respond to an election petition. Rather than 38 days, the election window under the new rule could shrink to as few as 10. 

“Ten days is not adequate time for workers to make an informed decision,” stated Thayer Long, IEC National executive vice president/CEO. “This is a serious and impactful decision for employees and we do not believe it should be hurried to reach an arbitrary timeframe. Under the current system the votes takes place in a median of 38 days, which allows sufficient time to gather all of the facts.”

The CDW successfully sued in Federal court to stop this rule from taking effect in 2011, however the NLRB re-introduced a similar rule on February 5, 2014, and finalized this week.

The CDW, which includes IEC, announced that it will sue to invalidate the National Labor Relations Board’s newly released rule within a week.

Employee Use of E-mail for Union Organizing
In a decision aimed at bringing labor law up to speed with workplace technology, the NLRB ruled that workers can use an employer’s e-mail system for union organization.

The ruling states: Consistent with the purposes and policies of the Act and our obligation to accommodate the competing rights of employers and employees, we decide today that employee use of e-mail for statutorily protected communications on nonworking time must presumptively be permitted by employers who have chosen to give employees access to their e-mail systems.

The NLRB’s ruling stemmed from a case that the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union brought in 2012 after it came up short in its attempt to organize employees of Purple Communications Inc. The union argued that prohibiting Purple workers from using the company’s e-mail system for non-business purposes and on behalf of organizations not associated with the company interfered with the CWA’s organizing efforts.

The rule only applies to employees who have already been granted access to the employer’s e-mail system and an employer can ban employees’ use of e-mail for nonwork-related business if they can justify that the ban is necessary to maintain production or discipline. 

The decision reverses a decision the NLRB made in December 2007 in the Register Guard case, which prevented workers from using their company e-mails for purposes such as organizing a union or collective bargaining. Since then, the Board’s makeup has changed and the three Democrats agreed to overturn the earlier decision. The two Republican members dissented.