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Ambush elections
Public Policy

Unions Can Begin ‘Ambushing’ Retailers

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This article was first published in the April 2015 issue of STORES Magazine. It has been updated to reflect the fact that President Obama vetoed the legislation as expected.

New rules allowing unions to quickly hold ambush elections when trying to organize workers at retail stores and elsewhere took effect today as scheduled despite efforts in Congress to stop them.

The Senate and House voted last month to block the National Labor Relations Board regulations, but President Obama vetoed the legislation and neither margin was large enough to override the veto.

“The rule grossly shortens the timeframe for union representation elections, trampling employer due process rights while also limiting employee access to essential information,” NRF Senior Vice President for Government Relations David French said in a letter to Congress. “The NLRB’s rule is not about efficiency but rather a naked attempt by the board to tip the scales in favor of union organizing.”

While employers would be given little notice of an election, unions could “secretly campaign for months or years,” French said in the letter.

In a statement issued today, French called the change “an overt attempt by the administration to tilt the union election playing field.”

NRF and other business groups have filed a lawsuit against the rules in U.S. District Court in Washington but a ruling has not yet been issued.

Under the regulations, a union election can now be held in as little as two weeks after a petition is filed. That compares with a median of 38 days under previous rules. Pre-election hearings can be held in eight days, with employers required to file a position statement the day before, and employers will be given only two days to provide unions with workers’ personal telephone numbers and email addresses.

NRF is concerned about the changes because organized labor has targeted traditionally non-union industries like retail for aggressive expansion efforts. Other recent NLRB actions would allow formation of micro-unions as small as a single department within a store, and let franchise companies be considered joint employers with local franchise owners.

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Workforce Investment
Retail employees

The NRF Retail Opportunity Index encourages Congress to support workforce investment by supporting jobs and economic growth rather than union organizers and expensive new regulations and mandates.