Skip to main content

Retailers face organized ‘ambush’ in 2015


A fresh round of unionization efforts appear to be in store for major retailers next spring after organized labor won a favorable ruling regarding how elections are conducted.

The contentious issue drew a swift response from the nation’s two largest retail trade organizations who derisively refer to the new voting procedures as “ambush elections.” The ruling substantially shortens the time before a union election is held which limits employees’ access to information essential to making an informed decision, according to the Retail Industry Leaders Association. Even worse, the group said, is the decision will force employers to provide private and confidential employee information, including email addresses and home phone numbers, to union organizers.

“This flawed rule is harmful to both workers and employers. By dramatically changing the procedures that govern union elections, the rule limits the information available to employees prior to entering the voting booth, potentially subjects employees to harassment at home and undermines the due process rights of employers,” RILA’s Vice President of Government Affairs, Kelly Kolb, said in a statement.

Even more pointed in its criticism of the matter was the National Retail Federation where David French, Senior Vice President of Government Relations, characterized the ruling as devastating with the potential to drastically change the workplace.

“This rule is the latest attempt by the Obama Administration to aid their allies in Big Labor at the expense of employers and employees,” French said in a statement. “After failing to achieve legislative success with the Employee Free Choice Act, even with a strong Democratic majority in Congress in 2009 and 2010, the Administration has been relentless in trying to slip major elements of the legislation into law through regulatory action.”

Like RILA, NRF views the ruling to accelerate elections – thus diminishing the ability of retailers to influence outcomes – as undermining the integrity of the process by limiting employees’ access to facts.

“The National Retail Federation is considering both a legal and legislative strategy to combat the outrageous erosion of employee and employer rights at the NLRB,” French said. “It comes as no surprise to us that the NLRB would want to avoid public scrutiny for such a controversial rule by putting it out on a Friday in December right before the holidays.”

Not surprisingly, NLRB offered a sharply different perspective on the “ambush election” ruling it contends will modernize and streamline the process for resolving representation disputes when implemented on April 14, 2015. The ruling was approved by a vote of three to two.

“I am heartened that the Board has chosen to enact amendments that will modernize the representation case process and fulfill the promise of the National Labor Relations Act,” said NLRB chairm Mark Gaston Pearce. “Simplifying and streamlining the process will result in improvements for all parties. With these changes, the Board strives to ensure that its representation process remains a model of fairness and efficiency for all.”

In a statement, NLRB said the rule will enable the agency to more effectively administer the National Labor Relations Act by modernizing its rules in light of modern technology, making its procedures more transparent and uniform across regions, and eliminating unnecessary litigation and delay. With these amendments, the Board will be better able to fulfill its duty to protect employees’ rights by fairly, efficiently and expeditiously resolving questions of representation.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds