Ambush election? What the heck is an ambush election?

by Michael Haberman on April 13, 2015 · 0 comments


The "ambush" election rules go into effect April 14, 2015

The “ambush” election rules go into effect April 14, 2015

Tomorrow, April 14, 2015, is the date that the new rule on “ambush” elections from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) goes into effect. Are you clear on what this is?

What exactly is an “ambush” election?

In the world of organization unions will spend a great deal of time and money in trying to get recognized as the bargaining representative of a group of workers. Much of this work is done in secret until such time that the petition for an election is filed with the NLRB.

Up until April 14th the common time for this to occur was 42 days. Even if  a company was caught totally off guard this period of time still allowed the company an opportunity to mount a campaign to tell the employees the company’s side of the story and to counteract the union’s story.

As of April 14th that time frame has been reduced to less than half of that time, even potentially as short as seven days. Obviously such a short time frame will make it difficult for the company to enlist professional help to run a campaign against the union. This increases the chances of the company losing the election, hence being “ambushed” by the union.

The purpose is to make it easier for unions

The reason this rule was put in place was to make it easier for unions to win elections. The unions have not being doing well and they demand payback for election support. In addition to shortening the time frame for elections the NLRB also limited determinations on the appropriate bargaining unit; they eliminated pre-election hearings (after all this slowed the process down, thus giving companies more prep time); they now allow only one post-election hearing to determine is the whole process was on the up-and-up; and finally the NLRB now requires employers to provide to the union all personal emails and cell phone numbers of the employees to be involved in the election. By the way, employees have no right of refusal on this last item. As you can see all these changes make it easier for unions to win elections.

How to offset the rules changes

With these rules changing to enhance the effects of unions in organizing what can a company do to offset this advantage? There are several things:

  • Make sure company supervisors are trained to spot activities that are indicative of a union campaign. This includes things such as unusual employee associations; challenges to things that have not been challenged in the past; and conversations that come to an abrupt stop when a member of management walks into the room. You can get guidance on this by visiting the website for CUE, IncYou can find their LinkedIn page here.
  • Make sure that communication of the company’s position on unions is communicated to employees, all the time.
  • Pay attention to what is going on in the company’s geographic area and industry. Find out what unions are doing what and to whom.

Most important offset

The most important effort a company can make to offset these changes is to just be a good company that treats employees well. You need to:

  • Offer good wages and benefits
  • Treat people with fairness and decency
  • Communicate constantly and keep people informed
  • Have a company where people are proud to be a part of the company and not just have a “job” to come to.

The best way to prevent a union is to have a healthy environment that is not conducive to a union “infection.” In other words do good HR.


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