Carolinas Associated General Contractors has launched a series of training seminars in order to prepare its members for upcoming National Labor Relations Board rule changes aimed at reducing the time it takes to complete the union certification process.
The NLRB is a federal agency charged with safeguarding employees’ rights to organize and to prevent and remedy unfair labor practices. It is also responsible for certifying labor union petitions. The new rules governing labor certification procedures are scheduled to go into effect April 14.
Allen Grey, CAGC utility division director, said his biggest concern is that employers will not be prepared to handle the speedier process, especially because North Carolina and South Carolina are right-to-work states.
“Employers in the Carolinas are considered easy targets by unions because our pro-employee, union-free environment has kept most organizing activities to a minimum,” Grey said in a statement. “However, with the implementation of the new rules, unions will be emboldened to step up their efforts and we must be prepared.”
North and South Carolina had the lowest union membership rates in the country last year, at 1.9 percent and 2.2 percent, respectively, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The U.S. average was just over 11 percent, with New York having the highest rate of employees who were members of unions, at 24.6 percent.
Grey said he’s specifically worried about a new rule that will set a pre-election hearing eight days after the hearing notice is served, which will require an employer to respond to a petition for representation within a week of receiving it.
“And then once that petition comes in, if it catches a contractor off (guard) and he’s not prepared, then he doesn’t have a chance to (make) his case,” Grey said in an interview.
Under the existing rules, pre-election hearings are scheduled for as few as 7 days to more than 15 days after petitions are served, depending on which of the NLRB’s 26 regional offices handles the certification process. The new rules will bring all regions “in line with the best practices,” according to the Federal Register, which published the new rules Dec. 15.
Whereas existing union certification elections take about 42 days to complete, the new rule will allow elections to be completed in as little as half that time, according to Scott Thompson, officer in charge at the subregional office in Winston-Salem for Region 11.
“It makes some changes to expedite the process, but there isn’t a specific number of days that its going to require for the process,” Thompson said.
Although employers will have less time to respond to petitions prior to pre-election hearings, the new rule also requires that employers be served petitions before the NLRB receives petitions.
Thompson said the new rule would force petitioners to submit a more detailed description of their claims as well. The details will be included in a mandatory “statement of position,” which will “identify the issues they may want to raise at the pre-election hearing,” according to NLRB’s website. Thompson said that would help reduce the number of petitioners’ claims that “weren’t fully supported.”
Another concern raised by the CAGC is that construction companies are especially susceptible to unions because the industry is bouncing back from the recession, which has created a pro-employee market.
“We’re looking for employees and the unions are looking to provide them. But the unions are going to come in and control them however they want,” said Grey, who also said CAGC isn’t necessarily against unions.
Thompson said the biggest goal of the NLRB’s new rules was simply to cut back on the amount of work created by petitioners whose claims are not fully supported by requiring more information on the front end of the process.
“It’s largely to speed up the process to eliminate some gamesmanship that parties used to play and to get the ballots in the box sooner. That’s the ultimate goal,” Thompson said.
CAGC will hold seminars on the rules April 7 at Mashburn Construction’s headquarters in Columbia, S.C., at 1820 Sumter St., and April 8 at the CAGC office in Charlotte, at 6115 Park South Drive. Both seminars are from 7:30-9:30 a.m., and each costs $15 per member.
For more information about CAGC’s upcoming seminars, contact Allen Grey at 707-372-1450, ext. 5231, or go to www.cagc.org.