Monday, September 29, 2008
There’s a misconception among many of my colleagues that simply gathering signatures from thirty percent of the pressroom workforce will result in the termination of the union representing the men and women working at the Los Angeles Times two production facilities. This is not the case, which prompted this post to give my colleagues the facts.
Fom Union Facts:
Employees who no longer want a union to represent them — whether it's because the union is undemocratic, corrupt, violent, or just plain inept — are entitled to seek an election to determine if a majority of their coworkers wants to drop the union. Such elections, conducted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), are known as "decertification elections." They are not rare -- several hundred take place in a typical year.
Employees who want to vote a union out have to circulate a petition calling for a decertification election. A sample petition is available below. They should not seek help from their employer, because the union can then complain that an unfair labor practice has tainted the election. Employees may take advantage of outside assistance, though. Signatures should be collected on non-work time and in non-work areas. It is important that the names of the union and the company be filled in before any signatures are collected.
It doesn't matter why the employees are dissatisfied. But there are some timing issues that are important. The NLRB has a rule that a new union is given one year to represent the workers before a decertification election can be held. Unions that have already negotiated a contract for employees can usually be subjected to a decertification election near the expiration of the contract. Therefore, workers with an old union should start their decertification drive a few months prior to the expiration of their contract to be sure they don't miss their window of opportunity.
If at least 30 percent of the workers in the bargaining unit sign the petition, then it must be sent to the NLRB's closest regional office, along with a cover sheet, NLRB Form 502. Once the petitions have been received and validated, the NLRB will set a date for the decertification election, usually about 60 days in the future. Individuals on both sides may campaign to sway the employees. When the vote is held, if a majority of the workers who participate favor decertifying the union, or if the vote results in a tie, then the NLRB will officially remove the union's recognition as the bargaining representative of the workers.