The NLRB ruled that, should firms illegally union bust during a campaign, workers will get their union.
Bosses will sometimes use the period before a union election to dissuade workers from unionizing.
But if those tactics are illegal and compromise an election, workers will now automatically get their union.
It's about to get harder for bosses to use illegal union busting to try to stall worker organizing.
In a new ruling, the National Labor Relations Board laid out what will now happen if employers trying illegal union-busting activity. If workers want a union, and employers use illegal tactics in the run-up to a union election that could compromise the election — like firing union organizers, or retaliating against workers engaging in protected union activities — the new rules says workers no longer have to hold a fresh election. Workers will instead automatically get their union and employers will have to bargain with them.
"It should make it easier to organize a union, to get union recognition," Erica Groshen, a senior economics advisor at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations, told Insider.
When workers seek union recognition, there are three paths for employers to take. Firms can voluntarily recognize the union, and start bargaining. They can insist upon an election as a binding way to validate whether or not employers want union representation — or, as Groshen notes, use the period between the request for representation and the actual union election to try and squash campaigns. Or employers can chance it and neither recognize the union nor request an election, an even more aggressive and illegal measure.
Firms have utilized the period between workers announcing their intent to unionize and when a formal union election takes place to dissuade workers from voting in favor of unionizing. That might take the form of mandatory anti-union meetings, which NLRB general counsel Jennifer Abruzzo has also taken aim at.
But now, should any of those tactics end up being illegal and compromising an election, workers will get their union anyway. The NLRB created a flowchart to break down the new rules.
The new ruling rules out management delay tactics like having multiple elections to "buy the time and kind of muck up the process," according to Groshen. And since employers will now know that illegal anti-union tactics might get them a union sans election, they may be more inclined to voluntarily recognize their workers' union and still skip the election completely, Groshen said.
The ruling comes as union membership across the country remain historically low, something that labor advocates attribute to weakening labor laws and anti-union tactics from employers. The new ruling might chip away at that.
"This isn't a fringe ruling, this is a big ruling," Groshen said. "This will be a deterrent to companies to use techniques that might be ruled illegal in the past during campaigns."
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