Call for all mail-ballot elections to improve worker rights and protect health and safety
Labor organizations across Washington State today are expressing outrage in reaction to the National Labor Relations Board (Board) postponing of all union recognition elections until at least April 2. They are also calling on the Board to revoke the decision, reschedule all such elections, and make all elections become all mail-in ballot only.
Recently, the National Labor Relations Board (Board) postponed all union recognition (or RC) elections until at least April 2nd. We strongly oppose this unilateral action undermining workplace democracy, and we call for immediate revocation of this action and immediate rescheduling of all RC elections, by mail ballot, as soon as they can be scheduled. Additionally, we call for the expediting of mandatory mail ballot procedures for all RC elections going forward.
“The Board’s decision shows that was meant to be a balancing force weighing the interests of workers and employers is a broken system. The Board unilaterally revoked workers’ rights to organize by this one action,” said Faye Guenther, President of UFCW 21. “Any insistence that mail balloting require approval from employers amounts to giving a veto card to all employers to terminate any unionizing effort at any time.”
Further harm to workers right to organize result from the decision because the standard that the Board has typically used (so-called “laboratory conditions”) in union elections will be erased because without the prospect of a union election workers will be reluctant to begin any new organizing drive. What would be the point of beginning to organize if you knew the employer could simply deny the right to a vote? Without the right to vote being protected and expected, there is no democracy.
“Now is the time for increased worker involvement in their workplace health and safety, not a muzzling of workers,” said Larry Brown, President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. “Democracy in the workplace where workers can be assured of a safe work environment, the ability to stay home from work when sick, and their unfettered right to advocate for themselves and for the public they serve, is paramount not just for their well-being, but for the well-being of everyone in America.”
Going beyond the issue of workers’ intertwined rights to self-determination and to advocate for their own health and safety, this attack on these rights creates an ongoing threat to the health and safety of the general public. For example, health care workers who are denied collective bargaining rights are less effective advocates for their patients than those who can be confident that if they speak up for patient safety their union will stand with them. Employers, pressured by intense market conditions, are endangering workers and the general public. Worker self-organization is one of the most powerful public health tools available, and it can produce immediate on-the-ground public health improvements. By example, unionized workers have already won agreements with employers that modify retail store conditions and health care facility standards that directly and immediately benefit the general public and the workers, resulting in immediate public health improvements.
Additional Information that would make workplaces safer for people working there and the general public:
- More worker whistleblowers than ever.
- We need workers to go home if they are sick more than ever.
- Workers in industries such as retail grocery and pharmacies are in fact first responders in our COVID-19 world, just as police, fire and healthcare workers are.
- To make matters even worse, we have evidence of examples where employers (Florida and Washington State and New York)* refused to agree to mail balloting--in essence their veto of any election--when the Board was willing to conduct mail balloting just prior to the Board’s blanket postponement. In each of these examples, the employers refused to agree to mail ballots even as they scheduled mandatory, anti-union, captive audience meetings with workers. And this at a time when most local and state governments are strongly recommending, if not mandating, the elimination of people meeting together in confined spaces in order to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
- Immediate rescheduling of all currently postponed RC elections; these to be conducted by mail ballot. These new elections ought to commence as early as practicable, but in no case later than April 1.
- Elimination of any previous rulemaking or precedent that requires employer agreement in order to conduct mail balloting.
- Development of new ways for workers to organize in workplaces, including voluntary recognition and other methods that are outside the traditional RC election model.
- If the Federal Government fails to restart NLRB elections immediately, then State Governments should proceed with elections.
- Consideration of any special new rules--given the new COVID-19 realities--intended to make certain that workers’ address information and other procedural details are conducive to conducting fair and democratic mail balloting.
- Immediate mandatory postings in all relevant workplaces of the intent to reschedule elections by mail balloting to inform workers that their democratic rights are being restored followed by subsequent postings indicating the date/time/particulars of all rescheduled union RC elections.
- Prohibition on all employer mandatory captive audience meetings. These meetings put workers and management alike in unsafe conditions. Also, given the new restrictions on union visiting workers’ residences due to COVID-19, the Board must immediately prohibit all captive audience meetings. Absent this, the union’s ability to communicate with workers is essentially eliminated while the employer anti-union activity would continue without any counter-balance.
- Special attention to all union-filed or worker-filed complaints relating to retaliation for workers advocating for workplace health and safety and public safety in the context of union elections and/or other NLRA-protected activity.
- Immediate staffing up of NLRB offices--remotely--in order to expedite the above matters.
Specific employers can be identified and interviews with union spokespeople can be arranged for reporters upon request.
Labor unions signing on include at the time of the release:
- WA State Labor Council
- MLK County Labor Council
- AFT WA
- UFCW 21
- UFCW 4
- UFCW 365
- UFCW 1439
- UFCW 368a
- UFCW 555
- UFCW 7
- Teamsters 38
- SEIU Local 49
- SEIU Local 503
- SEIU 925
- SEIU Healthcare 1199 NW
- UNITE HERE Local 8
- PROTEC 17