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National Restaurant Association - Why 'ambush elections' don't work

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Why 'ambush elections' don't work

The time employers have to respond to a move to unionize their business is about to get much shorter. Starting April 14, the National Labor Relations Board’s “ambush-election” rule is expected to cut the time between a petition to unionize and a vote by more than half.

“The biggest downside for employers is that they’ll be denied an adequate opportunity to give employees information as to whether union membership will be valuable” to the employee, said Michael Lotito, attorney and co-chair of the Workplace Policy Institute for Littler in San Francisco. “Unionization is not something to be taken lightly, and both employers and employees need sufficient time to consider the consequences.”

The House and Senate have passed legislation to block the ambush-election rule, but President Obama will likely veto the bill. But the rule can still be stopped. The National Restaurant Association has joined a lawsuit by the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace to block the rule from taking effect. Here are three reasons why the rule won’t work for employers or employees:

Employers are at an immediate disadvantage. The average time from the filing of a union petition to a vote whether to unionize is now 38 days, according to the NLRB. The new rule could cut that to as short as 11 days. During that period, an employer must gather and review a slew of information, including the union’s constitution, bylaws, financial reports, records of strikes and numerous other documents.. Employers will also likely need to retain an attorney who specializes in labor issues and train management staff on how to respond to issues that come up during the unionization attempt. That’s a significant workload even in 38 days – and nearly impossible in 11 days.

Employees may get only half the story. The narrow window limits the time employees have to weigh the costs and benefits of unionization.  Labor unions have virtually unlimited time to sell employees on unionization. They’re likely to flood employees with promises of job security and better benefits—which the union can’t guarantee. But employees aren’t likely to hear much about the potential costs, including mandatory union dues, scheduling and promotions based solely on seniority rather than performance, and severe penalties for violating union rules.

Employee privacy could be compromised. The ambush-election rule requires employers to hand over employees’ personal phone numbers and e-mail addresses to union organizers. Employees have no say in whether their contact information is disclosed. This makes it easier for union organizers to put extreme, and in some cases, inappropriate, pressure on employees to endorse the union. It also compromises employee privacy and raises concerns about possible identity theft.

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