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July 20, 2020

NLRB Issues New Guidelines To Ensure Safety Of Union Elections

As The National Law Review reports, “[I]n an effort to increase the use of the in-person or manual ballot method for conducting secret ballot elections,” the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel has issued comprehensive “suggestions” for conducting manual elections safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. (The NLRB conducts secret ballot elections among employees to determine whether they desire union representation.)

These suggestions include (but are not limited to):

  • A larger than usual voting area, spacious enough for social distancing between Board agents, voters, observers, and separate tables.
  • Plexiglass barriers between voters, agents, and observers.
  • Floor markings to enforce distancing and traffic flow, with separate entrances and exits for voters.
  • Consistent cleaning of the voting area according to established CDC hygiene and safety standards.
  • Inspecting the voting area by videoconference hours before the election.
  • Staggering voter releases from their assigned work to avoid overcrowding in the voting area.
  • Requiring that employers certify the number of individuals who have been in the facility in the preceding 14 days who have tested positive for COVID-19, or been told to assume they are positive, or are awaiting test results, or have symptoms or been in contact with someone who had tested positive in the previous 14 days. The certification must be provided between 24 and 48 hours before the election.
  • Requiring that every non-voter who will be in the voting room (observers, union and employer representatives, and employees witnessing the vote count) certify in advance that they meet the above standards.

Meanwhile, Politico reports “Democrats and unions are stepping up pressure on the National Labor Relations Board to conduct its elections electronically to avoid the risks of in-person voting during the pandemic but are clashing with conservatives warning about fraud – mirroring the debate in the presidential race.” In general, according to Politico, business groups oppose online voting due to the risk of hacking, fraud and coercion.