Unions Soon Coming to Small Businesses

What you need to know about the Ambush Election Rules and how they may impact your small business.



Small companies don’t usually come to mind when you hear about employees wanting to unionize. In fact, most people associate unions with jobs in government, manufacturing, professional sports, or Hollywood. However, if you’re a small business owner, you need to be aware of the “Ambush Election Rule” that went into effect on April 14, 2015, which may boost union participation, particularly in small companies.

Unions initially brought many needed changes to employment laws and practices. However, with so many law changes and employee-friendly work environments that have developed over the decades since the National Labor Relations Act was passed, unions represent a much smaller portion of the overall workforce today and the lowest percentage of private employees since the 1930's.

The new rules recently established by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will reduce “unnecessary delays” with the union election process. However, Human Resources professionals nationwide are calling this the “Ambush Election Rule” because of the seemingly unfair timeline and obligations it imposes on employers. As a snapshot, here is what is most concerning to employers:

  • Unions will be allowed to hold an election within 10 days of the targeted organization receiving a union election petition.
  • Employers have only one week to provide their position regarding the election petition.

The employer’s response will have to address a number of legal issues that requires an attorney, and if the employer fails to respond within the week, the company’s right is waived to do so later on.

Many small businesses are going to need time to find an attorney to include details that will take time and money to draft. Brian Hayes, former member of the NLRB and attorney with Ogletree Deakins, said, “Smaller employers are particularly at risk of being caught unprepared. Adding to the problem is the fact that most union organizing these days already targets these same smaller employers.” Employers will have a very small window to let employees know why they may not be in favor of unionizing, and will need to address all these issues while still doing “business as usual.”

So what can you do to avoid any potential threats of unionizing? Make sure that your wages and benefits are fair and competitive, that your managers are addressing employee needs and hearing their concerns, and that your employees are engaged. If you have managerial issues, address them promptly. When employees become unhappy with their work environment, it sets up a prime opportunity for unionization. For more information, please contact your Human Resources Consultant.

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