Is Obama's NLRB Looking to Suppress Worker Votes in Union Elections?

As President Obama’s union-controlled National Labor Relations Board continues on its quest to help unions do all they can to unionize America’s workers, a hint of their newest attempt may come in the form of a request for information (RFI) through the federal government’s procurement website.

For 75 years, when a union seeks to unionize a company, the NLRB’s primary method for determining whether a majority of workers wish to be unionized is through a secret-ballot election that includes a private, portable NLRB voting booth.  More importantly, except in extraordinary cases where employees are scattered across geographic areas, these elections are almost always done on an employer’s premises and on working time.

Why are they done on an employer’s premises?  The reason is simple.  Historically, the NLRB has viewed making the election process available to all the affected workers is preferable than having a minority of employees decide the fate of all affected employees.

Note: NLRB elections are decided by a simple majority vote.  In order for a union to win, it needs 50% + 1 of those people who actually vote.  For example, if there are 100 workers in a voting unit and all 100 vote, a union needs 51 votes in order to win the right to represent all 100.  However, if only five people vote and 95 (for whatever reason) do not vote, if three out of five workers vote to unionize, all 100 workers are unionized.

As they are in politics, unions are effective in getting out the vote in union elections.  As a result, unions win approximately 68% of all elections held this way.  However, when union elections are held in the workplace, there is also a greater likelihood for all affected workers to participate, including those that do not want the union. And that is something the union-controlled NLRB appears to want to change.

According to the NLRB’s RFI, the agency is seeking information for electronic voting for…

…the acquisition of electronic voting services to support conducting secret-ballot elections to determine representation issues. Specifically, the Agency requires a proven solution that supports mail, telephone, web-based and/or on-site electronic voting…

…the Agency specifically requests information, to the extent available, relating to what safeguards, if any, could be implemented to ensure that votes cast remotely were free from distractions or other interferences, including undue intimidation or coercion.

In other words, it appears the union-controlled NLRB is about to move a process that has primarily taken place in the workplace (and has worked well) out into the streets.

And the agency is closing the RFI quickly—June 29th—which indicates it is going down that path, without much time for there to be an opposition mounted.

As one of the more common union-organizing ploys is telling workers “if you don’t want the union, don’t vote” (a means of tricking “NO union” voters from voting), the NLRB’s push toward off-site, electronic voting appears as a willingness to disenfranchise (read: suppression) workers who oppose unionization.

Equally important is the ability for unions to further pressure workers into voting for the union outside the workplace.  As the law firm of Ford & Harrison notes:

While a shift away from the on-site, secret-ballot election makes little sense with respect to the NLRB representation election process, the potential for such a shift does create great concern for employers and employees alike. The primary goal of the on-site, secret-ballot election is to ensure the presence of “laboratory conditions” in the election process – to ensure that the voters are not subject to outside influences at the time immediately leading up to, during, and immediately following the casting of the ballot. If the NLRB eliminates the on-site aspect of the secret-ballot election, the NLRB is also eliminating any guarantee that voters will not be subject to coercion, intimidation, or other outside influences as they cast their ballots. [Emphasis added.]

While the union-controlled NLRB won’t publicly admit its RFI and the implementation of off-site voting is designed to better aid unions by suppressing votes that may be against unionizing, the NLRB’s recent actions leave little question.

“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776

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