Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Good News In Bad Times: Employers May Treat Employees Better for Fear of Easier Unionization

I recently said to someone dear to me:  "If a man and a woman cannot be at peace, how can nations?"  I think the principle applies to in the workplace:  if decency and justice do not prevail, then how can there be peace?  Unions are the result of disparate bargaining power in which one of the parties with most of the power, employers, act indecently.  The result is a gathering of employees who make "war" until a new equilibrium is reached.  But we know from contentious labor-management relations, the peace is fragile, and perhaps never exists at all.

New National Labor Relations Act ["NLRA"] regulations are likely to be approved soon that will expedite the process by which a Union can be formed by disgruntled employees.   Currently, the date of the unionization election takes place 4 months from the date of the filing of the Petition.  The new rules will shorten that delay to no more than 3 weeks.

Also, under the new rules, a hearing on the employer's challenge to the Petition must take place within just 7 days of the date the employer is notified of the Petition.    Employers are complaining that 7 days doesn't provide them enough time to gather needed evidence to contest a petition.  Employees and the NLRB contend the change is needed to prevent litigation delay tactics by employers based on frivolous grounds.  

Appointment of new NLRB members is confirmed by the Senate, now controlled by the Republicans.  There are currently two nominations pending confirmation.  There are 4 members of the Board, three of whom are currently pro-labor.  The "Public Comment" phase of the regulation adoption process ends in September, 2011.  

So, what may be an unofficial outcome of this change, if it occurs?  The increased threat of unionization may result in Management Attorneys and H.R. Consultants urging their clients to treat employees more equitably.  Employers may set voluntary procedures in place to allow employees to obtain fair resolution of their grievances.  Abusive managers may be disciplined or fired if they are creating mass defections.  That would be a welcome waft of fresh air in this stagnant economy where fewer workers are working longer and harder in more tense work environments, and frankly taking more crap for fear of losing their jobs.  Smart management sided lawyers will urge their employer clients with the advice that the best defense against a Union is fair and decent treatment of employees.  



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